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Special Report

All-Star Panel: Fight against Islamist extremists in Mali

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," January 15, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


MITT ROMNEY, R – FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mali has been taken over, the northern part of Mali by Al Qaeda-type individuals. We want to make sure that we're seeing progress throughout the Middle East with Mali having North Mali taken over by Al Qaeda, with Syria having Assad continuing to assassinate -- kill, murder his own people, this is a region in tumult.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Remember that, Mitt Romney at the debate mentioning Mali.  Some people made fun of him for mentioning Mali. Now, the French are launching an operation to go after Al Qaeda in the African country, North African country of Mali, where Al Qaeda appears to have set up a base. The U.S. is not sending troops in.

We're back with our panel. Charles, what about the French action?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think people do not realize the degree to which the French never really gave up their empire in Africa. The British left, the Portuguese left, (INAUDIBLE) left, and the French ostensibly granted independence in the '60s. But these countries, about a dozen of them, have French is the official language. And a lot of them have garrisons. Just this week when the French attacked, they launched attacks against the Islamist rebels who were about to march on the capital. They were able to have assets because Chad which is to the east had a French aircraft and Senegal on the west -- again, an ex-French colony -- had a garrison of French troops who went into Mali.

So the French look at this as the way we used to look at Latin America as a kind of Monroe Doctrine. They will not allow others, particularly Islamists, to take over. It's near Europe. It is a threat. It's Afghanistan without the mountains. And that is why I think what is happening is as it should. The French are taking the lead. We were dallying for weeks about organizing a force of Africans, which would have begun in the fall. All of this is happening rapidly.

But we ought to do is not send any troops. What we should be giving is as much logistic support as we can. There's a report in the Times that we are thinking about whether we should give capacity of the French airplanes to refuel. I think it's a give-me. Of course we should do that. It's a country that matters. And we can't allow a new Al Qaeda country in the middle of Africa.

BAIER: Juan?

WILLIAMS: I couldn't agree more. I think this is the new face of Al Qaeda. We have had arguments on this panel about, you know, the president's assertion that Al Qaeda has been decimated and the like and we've always come back to the idea that, look, we can argue about whether it's centralized Al Qaeda or these the new offshoots.

Mali as it stands right now is positioned to become a breeding ground for terrorism in this world. And that's why you have President Obama on the phone with President Hollande of France, offering support saying it's the right thing to do. The question becomes how much we do. And you hear from Secretary of Defense Panetta we have no intention of putting boots on the ground.

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I think this highlights a flaw in the basic U.S. approach to Al Qaeda in the Obama administration. We have taken a top-down approach that focuses on Al Qaeda central, which has been pretty effective. But what we haven't done is paid enough attention to the growth of these affiliates. So at the same time that we are focusing on the leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan, taking this top-down approach, they are growing from the bottom up. And they are expanding. They have armies and equipment in Mali that has migrated from Libya. This is what happens I think when the United States doesn't take its involvement in these wars seriously.

BAIER: Bigger role or not?

HAYES: Bigger role.

BAIER: Bigger role or not?


KRAUTHAMMER: But only logistical.

BAIER: That is it for the panel. But stay tuned to see how doing things -- what feels like the right thing may sometimes not be the best thing to do.

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Special Report, hosted by Bret Baier, airs on Weekdays at 6PM ET on Fox News Channel.