After France's military intervention in Islamist-controlled northern Mali over the weekend, the North African country has become a hot topic in the news. But one man was introducing the problems in Mali to a mainstream audience before most other politicians and commentators: Mitt Romney.
During the third and final presidential debate, which focused on foreign policy, Romney slipped in an aside about Mali that attracted some derision on Twitter at the time, but now looks wise in retrospect.
With the Arab Spring, came a great deal of hope that there would be a change towards more moderation, and opportunity for greater participation on the part of women in public life, and in economic life in the Middle East. But instead, we've seen in nation after nation, a number of disturbing events. Of course we see in Syria, 30,000 civilians having been killed by the military there. We see in -- in Libya, an attack apparently by, I think we know now, by terrorists of some kind against -- against our people there, four people dead.
Our hearts and -- and minds go out to them. Mali has been taken over, the northern part of Mali by Al Qaeda type individuals.
At the time of the debate, Romney was receiving intelligence briefings from administration officials, a tradition for the presidential nominees that begins after their nominating conventions.
A former Romney advisor told BuzzFeed that Mali came up "repeatedly" in briefings by the campaign's foreign policy team and in debate prep.
Northern Mali has been under the increasing control of three hardline Islamist groups since the spring and summer of 2012, but the situation became front page news worldwide when French troops entered Mali over the weekend at the behest of the Malian president.