THERE has been a dramatic shift in the strategic organisation of al-Qaeda around the world.
What we see today is the result of repeated concentration and then dispersion of jihadist groups.
In Mali, we have seen an entrenchment of jihadi groups in the north of the country.
Now, with the French military intervention which the jihadists will not be able to stop, we will again see the dispersion of these groups across Mali and throughout this region, where borders do not matter very much.
So Islamist networks which have controlled north Mali and Sudan are going to revert to more classic guerrilla tactics. We are going to see a series of attacks against western interests in the region, particularly those regimes and governments that have been involved in or offered help to Algeria in the last week.
This is pretty much a return to the original problem of instability that existed before the Islamists took control in north Mali. I do not think this will require a large deployment of British troops.
The French military will be able to defeat the Islamists who are controlling north Mali. Other European countries will be more concerned with strategic support.
The difficulty we face in Mali is not a military one, it is trying to maintain the peace afterwards, particularly considering the state in Mali is very weak.
This is why the French want other countries to get involved, particularly neighbouring African states, so they can take their troops out as soon as possible.
They are already finding that other countries may be reluctant.
In that sense, it is reminiscent of Afghanistan. Defeating the Taleban was very easy; rebuilding the Afghanistan state was very difficult.
However, because of the dispersion of attacks that we will see in the region which will follow, this will affect everyone working in the region and every government with an interest there.
• Dr Frederic Volpi is an expert in North African Islamism at St Andrews University.