Here is a very insightful piece on the issues going on in Mali. It kills me that the US is considering getting involved here and leaving al Assad's genocide on the Syrian people to go on unchecked.
Some of the background here, as I understand is, is that Qaddafi had hired lots of Tuareg mercenaries to help in Southern Libya and equipment them with lots of military-type hardware. When Qaddafi fell, much of this hardware was taken back to northern Mali by lots of Tuaregs. Ostensibly, the Al-Qaeda installation there was easily able to take control of it and began a renewed assault (after last year's rebel defeat) to topple the current Malian government. France then stepped in very recently. The US is considering involvement because we have a sworn policy to defeat Al-Qaeda wherever it is.
However, there's an argument floating out there about Mali's strategic importance. Anyway, the piece gets into this. From Bamako.