A combined French and Malian offensive Jan. 15 targeted the town of Diabaly in west-central Mali as part of France's Operation Serval. Around the same time, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb fighters reportedly moved into the more remote western part of Mali, possibly abandoning the northern towns of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal, while a company of the French 3rd Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment was sent from Ivory Coast to Bamako. The first British C-17 transport aircraft arrived in the Malian capital overnight, carrying armored vehicles from France, and a Canadian C-17 carrying supplies is expected to arrive soon. The French army also has units standing by in France and Abu Dhabi that are expected to deploy to Mali soon. France currently has more than 800 troops taking part in Operation Serval, and Paris has said it will eventually send 2,500 troops to Mali. Given the resources and forces France is deploying to Mali and the surrounding region, Paris is clearly preparing itself for any contingencies that could arise during its efforts to neutralize al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its ethnic Tuareg proxies in Mali. As the French military establishes a blocking position, France's air force is maintaining pressure on jihadists with continuous airstrikes. France is understandably hesitant to commit its forces to a drive into northern Mali, preferring to support West African, African Union and Malian ground forces in a push north. However, France is also under political pressure to wrap up major combat operations in a matter of weeks rather than months. It is uncertain whether African ground forces will be ready to mount a serious offensive north, even with French support, in the next few weeks — though African troops may begin to deploy into southern Mali in the coming days.