The French are now mixing it up with the Islamists in the town of Diabaly. Mali is shaped like a dogleg left, and Diabaly is right at the crook of the top of the dogleg, so it would seem to be a bit of a choke-point between the northern and southern legs of Mai.
The French have a group of Legionaries who are trained in dealing with desert combat and insurgents, so they have a team that has the rep of fighting well and mean; that's good, since you have folks who are trained to get their 72 raisins for the cause. The jihadists have scattered somewhat and going to guerrilla tactics, which is standard MO when you are familiar turf but outgunned.
This puts new French President Hollande in the odd spot of a war leader; as a man of the left, he's not a natural warrior. There will be some rally-round-the-flag effect that might help him get his domestic agenda passed.