"French-backed Malian forces have seized control of the airport and a bridge near the city of Gao, an Islamist militant stronghold in the country's north. The French defense ministry said Saturday that fighting continues in the area, where French and Malian forces have advanced rapidly against the rebels. France began a military offensive in Mali three weeks ago, after rebels who seized control of much of the country's north, last year, began pushing toward the capital, Bamako. The rebels have been imposing a strict form of Islamic law on civilians. " VOA
IMO the French/African forces will re-occupy all Mali up to the northern border. This will happen rapidly. After that they will face a campaign of infiltration and guerrilla warfare waged by the Islamists.
That phase of this war will last a long time. The key to success in that longer war will be an alliance with the non-Islamist Touareg forces now in rebellion against the Malian government. There are hopeful signs tht this may be possible.
The price for Bamako would be a large measure of Touareg autonomy.
Something to remember is that the French military is intimately familiar with these desert countries. That is the insignia of the "Regiment de Marche du Tchad," an "Infanterie de la Marine" unit. pl