February 3, 2015:
The Mali peacekeeping force, composed of 11,000 French and (mainly) African troops, turned out to be in more danger than expected. After two years of effort 44 peacekeepers have been killed. That works out to a death rate of 270 per 100,000 per year (a standard measure of such things.) It has been the highest of any UN sponsored peacekeeping operation currently under way. The Mali rate is higher than the 2013 rate (200) in Afghanistan for foreign troops. That was down from 587 in 2010, which was about what it was during the peak years in Iraq (2004-7). The action in Mali is less intense than in Afghanistan or pre-2011 Iraq and total peacekeeper casualties in Mali since early 2013 are less than 200 dead and wounded. The casualties have been higher in the last few months as Islamic terrorists from Mali settle into bases in southern Libya and are now regularly moving south to carry out operations in northern Mali. With bases in Libya the Mali Islamic terrorists always have a place to go for rest, taking care of the wounded and training new recruits. That makes these terrorists more effective.
All this is possible because Libya is undergoing a civil war, mainly up north along the coast and no one bothers with Islamic terrorists who only kill across the border in Mali. There is a similar problem in Afghanistan with Islamic terrorists operations from several sanctuary areas in neighboring Pakistan. Iran. Mali, Niger and other neighbors of Libya have complained to the UN about this but so far no one wants to go into Libya to try and sort out the mess.
In response to the heavier casualties the UN is sending more armored vehicles (of the sort that are better protected from mines and roadside bombs) and asking Western nations for more intelligence collecting aircraft and analysts to detect attacks before they happen.
While the Mali government is continuing peace talks with northern rebels and all but one (Ansar Dine) of the local Islamic terrorist groups. Those talks are stuck on the rebel (mostly Tuareg tribes who comprise most of the population up there) demand for more autonomy. The government and foreign experts see this as a ploy to gain more freedom to carry on with illegal activities (mainly smuggling drugs, weapons, illegal migrants and consumer goods). This sort of activity finances criminal gangs and Islamic terrorist groups alike and generates a lot of cash. It is the cash that is talking up north, although most northerners just want peace and some prosperity (which requires more economic activity, legal or otherwise.)
AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) remains the umbrella group for nearly all Islamic terrorists in the region, especially in Mali and neighboring countries. France now has 3,000 troops equipped and organized to fight Islamic terrorists throughout the Sahel (mainly Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso). This force was set up in mid-2014 and includes the thousand French troops in Mali. The other 2,000 are ready to quickly move from bases elsewhere in the region to wherever the most Islamic terrorist activity had been detected. The Americans are a junior partners in this, providing satellite and UAV surveillance and other intel services (especially analysis and access to nearly all American data on Islamic terrorist activities in the region). All this is meant to keep the Islamic terrorists in the Sahel weak and disorganized. So far that has worked, but AQIM is still getting support from Islamic terrorists in Europe and the Persian Gulf, where wealthy Islamic conservatives are still willing to finance Islamic terrorism in Africa. Islamic terrorists are continuing to carry out attacks in northern Mali mainly to let the world know that Islamic terrorist groups are still present in the area. The recent spike in attacks reminded everyone how important the Libyan sanctuary was. Until the terrorist sanctuary in Libya can be eliminated the Islamic terrorist problem will persist in the region and be very difficult to eliminate.