Stuck in the Sand: Why France Can’t Leave Mali
With the U.N. Peacekeeping force struggling to find its footing and negotiations between the Malian government and rebel groups deteriorating, France finds itself with few good options in northern Mali.
BAMAKO, Mali — Locally supported, internationally approved, and guided by a set of clearly defined objectives, the French bid to oust Islamist rebels from northern Mali would have been a straightforward military intervention — if such a thing existed.
Dubbed Operation Serval, the campaign began on January 11, 2013 in response to an audacious push southward by Islamist rebels who had spent the better part of a year consolidating control over northern Mali. The Malian government appealed to the international community to intervene and France responded with an array of airstrikes in central and northern Mali.
Soon after, the panoply of jihadi gunmen – some with links to Al Qaeda – abandoned their urban strongholds. Some melted into Mali’s mountainous landscape near the Algerian border, where they engaged in weeks of heavy combat with French and Chadian troops. Others fled farther afield to southern Libya, potentially regrouping to fight another…
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