French President Francois Hollande is likely to be greeted as a hero when he visits Mali tonight, three weeks after he sent forces to the country.

Read: Mark Austin on how fears that Mali is the new Afghanistan energising France

His decision to launch a surprise assault on jihadists who had seized much of the northern desert appears to have been a success.

French military commanders tell me that they have almost reached "total reconquest".

Reports in the French media say that Hollande plans to visit the fabled desert city of Timbuktu, which was under the control of the Islamist rebels until last week.

It would be a symbolic moment in an iconic setting.

Read More: Timbuktu, the ancient city at the heart of the Mali conflict