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    Why Mitt Romney Kept Talking About Mali

    The West African country — likely obscure to most watching the foreign policy debate — just entered the national conversation.

    Harouna Traore, File / AP

    A man carries a sign on Oct. 18 reading "No to the destructive soldiers of ECOWAS" as Malians opposed to a military intervention to retake Mali's Islamist-controlled north march in the streets.

    During the first question of the Oct. 22 foreign policy debate, GOP nominee Mitt Romney brought up Mali — and the influence of "al-Qaeda-type individuals" in the Northern part of the country — before Osama Bin Laden or Afghanistan had even been mentioned.

    "Mali has been taken over," Romney said, "the northern part of Mali by al-Qaeda type individuals."

    Later, the land-locked country in West Africa came up again — this time in the context of an Africa and Middle East in upheaval. "With Mali now having North Mali taken over by al-Qaeda," said Romney, "with Syria having Assad continuing to kill, to murder his own people, this is a region in tumult."

    The attention on Mali, however unexpected, stood out as a sign that the country — and the fight to free it from al-Qaeda's influence — will enter the larger foreign policy conversation.

    Although, as Bill Maher pointed out on Twitter, some viewers might have been hearing about the country for the first time tonight:

    Mitt, you do know that most of America thinks Mali is one of Obama's daughters, right?

    Mitt, you do know that most of America thinks Mali is one of Obama's daughters, right?-- Bill Maher

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