West African plans to take back control of northern Mali, held for over seven months by armed Islamist groups, could see the mobilisation of some 5,500 soldiers, mainly but not totally drawn from the region.
Between 200 and 400 European soldiers will train troops in Mali, according to the operational plan.
TROOPS ON GROUND: The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) wants to deploy 5,500 soldiers of which 3,200 would be drawn exclusively from member states as originally envisaged. The additional 2,300 would be supplied by non-ECOWAS nations on the continent.
AFRICAN MILITARY CONTINGENTS (as of November 11): The majority of the troops will be from Mali, under a Malian commander, and the force headquarters will be based near the country's capital, Bamako.
- Burkina Faso will send around 150 troops.
- Niger could contribute between 600 and 900 soldiers.
- Other African countries outside ECOWAS -- such as South Africa -- could also take part but no decision has yet been taken.
DRAWBACKS: Ivory Coast, which chairs the regional body, has UN troops on its soil, and Senegal, which has contributed to other military missions, have so far declined to send troops to Mali.
- Two other Mali neighbours -- Mauritania and Algeria, not ECOWAS members -- are deeply opposed to a military intervention in Mali and have indicated they will not send troops, saying that they preferred dialogue.
- Nigeria, the military powerhouse in ECOWAS, is currently battling its own Islamist insurgency in the north and centre of Africa's most populous nation.
WESTERN POWERS SUPPORT: A European training mission in Mali is likely to consist of 200 to 400 European soldiers who are not charged with fighting. In addition to the trainers will be added an unspecified number of soldiers to protect the force, according to the French defence ministry.
A French military source said that soldiers drawn essentially from the special forces of France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain would constitute the contingent.
France's special forces have been operating in the Sahel region since French nationals were first taken hostage there more than two years ago.
POSSIBLE AERIAL ATTACKS: The United States, which has means of aerial satellite surveillance in the zone, has considered the possibility of drone attacks against Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), according to reports in US media.
France, which has two Harfang drones, affirmed last month that there were "no drones in the Sahel region."