“The French supply lines are enormously overextended,” Barrett says.
AQIM is affluent enough to buy caches of weapons and to pay recruits.
“You can attract people by offering them a sense of adventure, by saying, ‘Come to Mali and you have a great fight, and we’ll pay you,'” Barrett says.
That strategy appears to be working, as foreign fighters continue to sift into North Africa.
Meanwhile, Aissata is coming to Washington to ask the U.S. to get more involved in the fight.
“We want the United States to go into Northern Mali to back the French in the fight against the jihadists,” she says.
But the U.S. government faces a dilemma. Military officials say that coming out of two exhaustive campaigns against al-Qaida and the Taliban, the Pentagon is in no mood to get bogged down in another conflict with the group.
At the same time, U.S. intelligence officials point out they are keenly aware that if al-Qaida is not defeated in North Africa, it will continue its quest to attack the U.S.