Tony Blair told ITV News that the West has "absolutely no option but to intervene in Mali."
"If we leave Mali to become effectively a terrorist state, then it won't be long at all before that problem lands on our doorstep," he said.
"We learned that through Afghanistan - we shouldn't have to learn it again."
He added: "Unfortunately, right throughout the whole of the north of Africa, going down into sub-Saharan Africa, this is now a major issue."
Throughout ten months of Islamist rule, the people of Timbuktu risked their lives to preserve the artefacts of their ancient heritage.
Francois Hollande is due to visit Timbuktu during his visit to the West African country this weekend. He will be welcomed by many.
Downing Street have been explaining what offers the UK have made to the military effort in Mali.