After French forces changed the dynamic of the conflict in Mali, it has now taken on another new, and sadly predictable, turn—suicide attacks. A Tuareg militant blew himself up next to a group Malian soliders on Friday, but fortunately he only killed himself and injured just one. It's the first suicide attack in Mali since French forces joined the fight against Islamic militants last month.
It probably won't be the last, either. For the first 10 months or so of the rebellious conflict that began last spring, it's been a series of battles between armed militant groups and poorly-trained, but better armed Malian soliders. That meant skirmishes that more closely resembled a traditional guerrilla war. However, as we've seen in Afghanistan, Iraq, and even Pakistan and Yemen, as Western forces take over the conflict, they can overwhelm and scatter the insurgents, which is when they begin to rely on suicide attacks, IEDs, and other tactics that don't require a stand-up fight against a much stronger force.
If that patten happens in Mali, France may soon find itself in a situation that will feel very similar to Americans, as they watch a traditional shooting war turn into a peacekeeping and counter-terrorism operation. And just like the American military in Afghanistan and Iraq found out, those are much harder to extract yourself from.