French President Francois Hollande followed in his army's footsteps to Mali this morning.
He was accompanied on the trip by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
France's military intervention in Mali has entered its fourth week, and after rapidly forcing Islamists' retreat from major towns, has attracted much applause from Mr Hollande's Western colleagues, unused to such spectacular apparent success.
But much of the success may be illusory, since the Islamist rebels have shown little resistance and simply withdrawn deep into the Saharan wilderness.
Dislodging them may be as difficult in Mali as it has proved in Afghanistan.
And France's much-trumpeted determination to hand the war over to the Malian and African Union forces as soon as possible could wilt under an assault from civil rights organisations which are accusing the Malian forces of a lengthening list of atrocities and war crimes.
Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have compiled reports detailing abuses by Malian forces, including summary executions.
Meanwhile in Europe at the opening of the Munich Security Conference today, German Defence Minister Thomas de Maiziere said international intervention in Mali could make it an "anchor of stability."
He said that piling UN, Nato and EU forces into a target country "seems to be an approach we might put to more frequent use."
His comments came a day after a Western diplomat said the UN security council would soon consider sending an international peacekeeping force to Mali - an approach backed by the US, Britain and France.
The US government, wary of offending citizens tired of long wars in faraway places, has been thinking about how to maintain its influence in Africa while staying out of another war of attrition, and such a UN force would suit its purposes.
For both political and economic reasons, Western countries are keen to maintain an influence in the vast, resource-rich country.
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