African Union Chairman and Beninese President Thomas Yayi Boni is calling for NATO troops to be deployed to Northern Mali in addition to the African force already approved by the United Nations.

NATO member France has pledged to offer assistance but will not commit to sending combat troops.

Boni wants NATO troops to play a role similar to their role in Afghanistan, saying:

Nato should play a part and the African force would lead the way as was done by Nato in Afghanistan,

However, having the African force “lead the way” is what has some concerned. United States U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice called the plans for intervention “crap,” expressing concern that the African soldiers that will be deployed do not have the skills necessary for the intervention. From Foreign Policy:

The American envoy's assessment reflected deep misgivings that the Malian army, supported by a Nigerian-led coalition of 3,300 troops from 15 Western African countries has the manpower or the skills required to contend with a battle-tested insurgency with experience fighting in the Sahel's unforgiving desert. Rice's candor also deals a setback to a long, drawn-out effort by France and West African countries to secure U.N. Security Council mandate for a regional intervention force in Mali.

The E.U. mission to Mali aims to train Malian soldiers, not the soldiers to be used in the mission backed by the U.N. As it stands the Malian army, with European training assistance, will join an African force of 3,300 ill-prepared troops in a mission to dislodge Al Qaeda-linked militants from an area larger than Texas. It is not hard to see why Boni thinks the planned intervention could benefit from NATO support.

The intervention in Mali is not scheduled to begin before September. Yet, before the mission has started there are already concerns that the troops being used are not skilled or experienced enough for the mission and that the intervention could lead to terrorist attacks in France. It might be worth NATO members sitting this one out.