BRUSSELS, Belgium — French military prowess isn't always fully appreciated in the United States.
But there are few troops anywhere in the world better prepared for their task than the marines, foreign legionaries, and other elite French units rolling north to confront the Jihadist militants controlling much of Mali.
"The French special forces are tip top, they’re up there with the best of them," says Brooks Tigner, chief policy analyst at Security Europe, a specialist newsletter.
"They also have vast experience in expeditionary forces in West Africa," he adds. "They really know the territory, the boundaries, the topography and the ethnic problems. They are very well placed."
Among America's European allies, only the British can match France's ability to project significant military force overseas. However, not even they have much experience operating in the string of former French colonies across North and West Africa — where the recent rise of Islamist groups is posing the international community’s latest security threat.