News / Africa

Analysts: French Military Walks Fine Line in Mali

French soldiers receive instructions in a hangar at the Malian army air base in Bamako, January 14, 2013.
French soldiers receive instructions in a hangar at the Malian army air base in Bamako, January 14, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Lisa Bryant
France's military intervention in Mali has generally won praise both at home and abroad.

But fraught with uncertainty and the chance of reprisals by Islamist extremists, the offensive in its former African colony poses substantial risks.

 
Four days into its operation, the French military has moved swiftly from stemming an Islamist push to the south to striking northern targets in efforts to crush the insurgency.
 
Interviewed on French radio Monday, Christian Royer, France's ambassador to Mali, said the tables had turned against extremists, whose presence not only threatens Mali's stability but that of the larger Sahel region.
 
"[Our] airstrikes have changed the status quo, dislodging Islamists from strategically important towns like Mopti and Savare a few hundred kilometers from Bamako," he said, adding that the nation's capital city was calm.
 
But other French officials have expressed surprise at the insurgents' skill and preparedness: Hours after announcing they had thwarted a rebel advance, French authorities reported that rebels had attacked and seized the Malian town of Diabaly.
 
"There's always a risk for this kind of operation to take more time than initially expected," said Dakar-based analyst Gilles Yabi of the International Crisis Group, who predicts further difficulties eradicating Islamist strongholds in the north.
 
"It's not a very conventional war, because the enemy is a very mobile one, and we're talking about terrorist groups," he said, adding that he doesn't think French officials desire a protracted intervention. "It is highly possible that after retreating from the cities where they can't [fight] against the powerful force of the French military ... they will go to some hidden areas [that are] more difficult to access — the mountainous areas close to Algeria, for example."
 
But in Europe, the French intervention is boosting President Francois Hollande's dismal popularity ratings, with some of his biggest critics, such as far-right politician Marine Le Pen, expressing measured statements of support.
 
"While France's decision to intervene in Mali was legitimate, the Islamists' growing clout is a result of French errors in Libya and Syria," said Le Pen on French radio.
 
While Paris has been careful to frame the intervention as a stopgap for a larger West African initiative against Islamists, members of the African press have been openly critical. In Algeria, which has a tense relationship with its former colonial ruler, news editorials questioned French motives in Mali.
 
Regardless of political speculation, however, the prospect of more immediate danger has not been questioned. Islamist groups have already threatened retaliation against Paris, and French officials are fearful of the fate of eight French hostages in Mali.
 
Warning against a drawn out military venture, terrorism expert Jean-Pierre Filiu of the Institute of Political Studies in Paris called for a brief, targeted intervention, describing the operation as a narrow conflict against physical enemies such as criminals and hostage takers.
 
The French government says the intervention will take the "time it needs" to thwart if not eradicate the Islamists, and many here in Paris hope that means weeks — and not months or years.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Simon
January 15, 2013 1:11 PM
Armchair analysts should really get out into the field and see what is actually happening. These campaigns are the byproduct of many months of preparation by the enemy, who have been allowed to expand their field of operation, perhaps undetected until they were ready to confront the government. They are also likely to have amassed sufficient weaponry and men. Quicksand War sound familiar to those analysts?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid