If one is to follow the events in Mali closely as I have been doing from the ground in Africa in the past few weeks, one would think that the French forces will "Finish the Job" pretty quickly and clear northern Mali from its Islamist factions very soon. The French show superior weaponry and of course air superiority. However, we are students of history and we know its not that simple. Air Superiority did not give the allies any real benefit in the fight against the Taliban. The terrain is different but in most cases, these Mali Islamists are dug into large cave complexes which will need troops on the ground to take over.
A question the allies are also asking them self, is where would the continued line of logistical support will come from? Africa is full of weapons and given the recent Arab Spring, a new plentiful supply of weapons is evident.
First, is the major arsenal taken from the bunkers of the Qaddafi regime. Although the Qaddafi loyalist are not really motivated by Islamist ideology, they are motivated by money. This is evident in the flow of anti aircraft missiles from the south of Libya to Northern Mali.
Second, is Somalia; the Al Shabab groups had to be pushed out of Mogadishu so the supply lines between the areas which they are in (Western Somalia) is flowing with light weapons and armed militants to join the fight against the French.
Third, is Northern Sudan which gets a fresh supply of weapons every day from Iran and that gets routed to the Gaza strip as well now to Northern Mali.
Lastly is Nigeria; although the Nigerian government is sending troops into Mali to help the French, the Muslim militants in Nigeria's north are sympathetic to the Mali cause and send weapons as well as people into Mali.
This means that the French are not going to easily defeat the Mali Islamist and we are starting a long and bloody confrontation only to escalate over 2013.
Hope this helps,