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Politics, logistics, fears cloud timetable for African troops promised to help troubled Mali

For African nations, moving from promises to send hundreds of troops to help fight al-Qaida in troubled Mali to getting boots on the ground has been more complicated than first hoped.

Domestic political debates, fears that intervention could cause the militants to scatter abroad, and logistics — even getting their troops fed — have clouded deployment plans.

West African regional leaders are converging in Abidjan, Ivory Coast on Saturday to discuss plans for ramping up its military role alongside the French in Mali.

France's unilateral move on Jan. 11 to intervene in Mali has put both European and African contributors to a long-planned, U.N.-backed stabilization effort for Mali on a faster track. Europe is offering to help train Mali's feeble army and leave African forces to do the heavy fighting.