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French forces have rolled back Islamist militants in Mali "much faster" than the United States expected but now face the daunting task of building up security in the region over the long-term, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Friday.
"They have moved much faster than we had anticipated. They now control Timbuktu and Gao and have moved into the north to capture some of the cities in the far north as well," Panetta told AFP in an interview. "That's very good progress."