TIMBUKTU, Mali - As Islamists in northern Mali threatened to "open the gates of hell," the United States is navigating one tricky quandary: how does it help in the battle against the militants without violating its own policy?
U.S. policy prohibits direct military aid to Mali because the fledgling government is a result of a coup.
No support can go to the Malian military directly until leaders are elected through an election, said Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman.
- "We are not in a position to train the Malian military until we have democracy restored," she said this week.
- The international community is concerned that the militants will create a terrorist haven in the desert region, which analysts say has the potential to become the next Afghanistan.
- Though Islamist militant groups affiliated with al Qaeda, such as Ansar Dine, are rampant in the north, they co-exist with other anti-government opportunists, complicating U.S. involvement in an offensive touted as anti-terror.