With Mali's post-coup government unable to prevent rebels from taking large swaths of territory and tearing down ancient tombs, the country seems to have completed a full turnabout from promising democracy to burgeoning anarchy.
Tuareg separatists have pressed gains in the north, and al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamists have occupied towns. Now, the African Union is considering sending in thousands of troops to help Mali's new military-dominated government regain its territory.
But such a move could set off extended, multi-party warfare, and the hardline groups have declared intervention akin to a war on Islam.
Al Jazeera's Anu Nathan reports.