BAMAKO – With major operations in the North purportedly coming to an end, the French are keen to begin pulling troops from Mali by the beginning of March.
But the remaining insecurity - as seen in the street fights and suicide bombings in the Malian city of Gao - calls into question the ability of the former colonial power to leave. After years of neglect by the administration of Amadou Toumani Touré, the president until he was deposed by a coup in March 2012, and continual infighting in the military since the coup, Mali also remains grossly unprepared to take over.
Besides an unpreparedness and unwillingness to engage in actual combat, the Malian army was accused by human rights observers in January of abuses, including summarily executing suspected rebels.
The international community is looking at a variety of options to support the transition.
This week the European Union will launch a programme to train roughly 2500 soldiers from the Malian army and give restructuring advice to the Ministry of Defence.
The head of the UN-authorised regional support mission "AFISMA" is set to arrive in Bamako to push for the deployment of troops to support the Malian army in stabilising the North.
Yet the mandate of this military force is outdated, having been authorised in December 2012, before the French intervention.
In New York, the UN Security Council is concurrently negotiating a resolution to authorise a "blue helmet" operation in the country to ensure stability.
What this will look like, and what role the French will have in this peacekeeping mission, remains to be seen.
But if and once a force is given the green light by Malian authorities, the new mission – which could bring troops from Southeast Asia in addition to African regional forces to the country - could be deployed quickly.
The peacekeeping force would also include human rights monitors to observe the Malian army.
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