The last few months have shaken Mali to its core. In March 2012, the country's 20-year relationship with democracy ended abruptly after a group of low-ranking military officers overthrew the government. Within weeks of the coup, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), a Tuareg separatist group, seized several cities in northern Mali. Adding to the chaos, just weeks after that, fundamentalist Islamist groups, such as Ansar Dine, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), overran those same cities. Regional mediators attempted to help resolve the conflict, but their efforts yielded no tangible results. By late 2012, West African leaders had agreed to send 3,000 soldiers to halt the insurgents' advance, but the soldiers' arrival lagged. Earlier this month, the jihadist groups marched into the town of Konna. They seemed primed to make the short hop to Sevaré, which is home to a Malian military base and airstrip, and then onward to Bamako, Mali's capital.