The United States is significantly expanding its assistance to a French assault on Islamist militants in Mali by offering aerial refueling and planes to transport soldiers from other African nations, the Pentagon announced Saturday night…

The United States has concluded that the expanded assistance is legally sound because of France’s notification to the United Nations Security Council that its mission in Mali is being offered at the request of the African country’s government, which is fighting “terrorist elements,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. James Gregory said in a statement.

“Under these circumstances, the U.S. can lawfully provide support to France’s efforts in the armed conflict in Mali,” Gregory said. Gregory said the coup bars “foreign assistance funds,” not military support.