France will send about 1,000 troops and armored vehicles to Mali over the next few days with the support of U.S military and intelligence operations, upping the ante in its effort to turn back Islamic militants threatening to topple the north African nation’s government, U.S. national security officials told NBC News on Monday.

French mechanized forces will join approximately 500 French troops already on the ground in the country, battling fighters from at least three Islamic militant groups, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM), according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Al Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels in Mali have promised to drag France into an Afghanistan-style war. They’ve launched a counteroffensive after four days of French air strikes on their northern strongholds. There are reports the Islamists have seized control of Diabaly a town 250 miles north of the capital Bamako. Jonathan Miller Channel Four Europe reports.

The military escalation follows intense bombardment over the weekend by French aircraft of Islamic militant positions in the country’s north, where they effectively created an al-Qaida refuge late last year.