Where are they getting this modern equipment and training? At least some of the equipment comes from Libya, courtesy jihadists who got them from the U.S. and its allies.
"Mali Islamists much stronger than expected: France," from AFP, January 13:
French forces in Mali have been taken by surprise by the fighting strength of the Islamist radicals they are attempting to drive out of the centre of the country, it emerged on Sunday.
Aides to President Francois Hollande admitted the militants were better equipped, armed and trained than they had expected.
"What has struck us markedly is how modern their equipment is and their ability to use it," one said in a reference to the rebels' hit on a French Gazelle helicopter.
The helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing and its pilot, Lieutenant Damien Boiteux, died of his injuries after being shot with a light arm.
The helicopter was brought down during an attack on an Islamist convoy travelling between the towns of Mopti and Sevare in central Mali.
"Initially, they appeared like a rag-tag bunch travelling in their Toyotas with a few weapons," the official added. "But they've shown themselves to be well-equipped, well-armed and well-trained."
The French officials believe the Islamists obtained many of their weapons during last year's unrest, when arms were delivered to rebels fighting to overthrow Libyan dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
"In Libya they picked up modern, sophisticated kit that is a lot more robust and effective than could have been imagined," the source added....