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The French intervention in Mali

Published on April 11, 2013
A French intervention: Why?

Paris, April 8, 2013

At the end of March 2012, soldiers toppled the Malian government in Bamako. They announced that they wanted to stop the Tuareg rebellion that was plaguing the north of the country. Taking advantage of the political instability, MNLA’s Tuareg rebels and several jihadist militia groups, including Ansar Dine, captured the cities in the north. In May 2012, these two movements combined forces and created an independent state in northern Mali. This alliance of convenience between the jihadists and the secular Tuaregs was swiftly denounced and resulted in a situation in which Al Qaeda-affiliated groups had total control of northern Mali by the end of July 2012.

In March 2012, France focused its efforts on resolving the Sahel-Malian crisis. It consistently held the view that the political dimension and the security dimension were both complementary and essential to achieving a lasting solution to the crisis.

With respect to the political dimension, France encouraged the path of negotiation; with respect to the security dimension, it always indicated that it was prepared to provide logistical support to the African forces in the event of an intervention. In order to reorganize and train the Malian army in the first half of 2013, France became one of the driving forces behind the creation of the European training mission, EUTM Mali.

The situation dramatically deteriorated at the beginning of January 2013. The terrorist groups rejected the ceasefire proposed in December to the Malian government and launched an offensive toward the south of Mali on January 10. France decided to respond as a matter of urgency to the request issued by the Malian president by launching Operation Serval on January 11.

This military intervention was in response to the request by the Malian state, in strict accordance with the UN Charter in order to allow the implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions. President Hollande stated that it would last as long as necessary but that France did not intend to remain in Mali.

Objectives of the operation

Operation Serval was launched by France in response to an urgent request for assistance by Mali. President Hollande’s objectives were as follows:

1. to stop the advance of the terrorist groups and to prevent them from threatening the south;

2. to safeguard the existence of the Malian state and enable it to re-establish its territorial integrity and its full sovereignty;

3. to facilitate and accelerate the implementation of international decisions (UN, AU, EU) by preparing for the deployment of AFISMA and the European training mission, EUTM Mali.

French forces’ mission

These objectives correspond to 4 missions for the French forces:

1. to help the Malian forces to halt the progress of the terrorist groups toward the south through air strikes and the deployment of ground forces;

2. to strike deep into the rear bases of the terrorist groups to prevent them from regaining strength and to prevent any further offensives;

3. to secure Bamako in order to ensure the city’s stability and to ensure the long-term future of its institutions;

4. to ensure that our forces establish the conditions necessary for the organization and intervention of AFISMA’s armed African forces under Nigerian command and for the deployment of the EUTM training mission.

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