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Mali could be the gamble that defines Hollande’s presidency

17 January 2013

The crisis in Mali is yet another unintended consequence of the Arab Spring. Specifically, they are a result of the revolution in Libya, where Tuareg rebels who supported Gaddafi were forced to flee after his downfall. Heavily armed and regrouping in Mali, they created the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) which effectively ended the government’s control over the north. Jihadist groups aligned with al-Qaeda then swooped in and established a semi-autonomous Islamic state in the north.

As they pushed south it looked as if they might capture all of Mali, prompting interim President Dioncounda Traore to ask for French assistance. Francois Hollande responded by launching Operation Serval with overwhelming public support both at home and abroad. The mission is straightforward enough: to stop the Islamist push south and re-establish the government’s control over the north.

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Yet, neither of these tasks will be easily achieved. Memories of swift and successful interventions in Africa, such as Blair’s foray into Sierra Leone have long recessed. The Malian jihadists are well armed and are exploiting a pattern of increased lawlessness across the Sahel following the Arab Spring. Their willingness to use asymmetrical tactics now also explains the ongoing hostage crisis in Algeria, where 41 foreigners are being held by jihadists unhappy with French involvement in Mali.

Yesterday’s Algerian siege could not have come at a worse time for Hollande. Last Saturday French Special Forces launched an ambitious rescue attempt in Somalia to free an intelligence officer, Dennis Allex, held by the Somali terrorist group al-Shabaab. The mission resulted in two soldiers being killed before it was eventually called off. To compound Hollande’s problems, the bodies of the fallen soldiers were left behind and have been paraded on jihadist forums. This morning al-Shabaab announced they executed Allex in response to the abortive French mission.

Hollande now has to manage two competing factors: time and French public opinion. The latter will wane at an accelerated pace if the civilian and military death toll climbs. These fears will need to be assuaged if Hollande is to afford his soldiers the time needed to see through their mission in Mali. Even once jihadist fighters are routed, restoring the government’s control over the north will be far from easy. Mali is a state fractured along sectarian and ethnic lines.

It was thought that Hollande would be more reticent about exercising French power in the world. Sarkozy had, for example, committed troops to Afghanistan, the Ivory Coast, and Libya while Hollande’s election manifesto only mentioned foreign policy four times. He may well have been a reluctant interventionist, but Hollande is now committed to Mali in a campaign that could go either way – a gamble that will define a large part his presidency.

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Show comments
  • IrishIslamicVanguard

    Mali fell to French radicals in 1892 but active resistance by the noble Mujaahideen meant that Al ‘Amaaneyeen militants had to wait until 1905 before they could lay claim to Mali. Let’s hope history does not repeat itself.

  • IrishIslamicVanguard

    Mali’s Muslims have suffered at the hands of French secularist radicals before, we hope they can avert this impending disaster. “Mali fell to French radicals in 1892 but active resistance by the noble Mujaahideen meant that Al ‘Amaaneyeen militants had to wait until 1905 before they could lay claim to Mali. Under the repressive and maniacal rule of French secularists, Islam was regulated, massacres frequent and slave labour, to France’s other colonies on the coast of West Africa, became a thriving business.”

  • Christopher Thompson

    Surely Togolese troops – i.e. from the west African state of Togo?

    • the viceroy’s gin

      In the Togo vs. Tonga test match, who would take it?

      • salieri

        Rugby or cricket? Not that the outcome would differ, in all probability. Size does matter.

  • undergroundman14

    And if it were Sarkozy, or even Le Pen, the left would now be shouting warmonger!

  • eeore

    The Sierra Leone reference made me laugh.

    According the BBC, and the media, there was a long and complicated diplomatic explanation for why the conflict was delayed from the planned spin of the operation… you will need a memory longer than a goldfish to remember.

    According to my army and navy (and no not the shop) ‘sources’ the reason for the delay was that the treasury could not afford to buy the fuel for the aircraft carrier.

  • Jules

    As long as Britain STAYS OUT of this, I don’t care what the French do.

  • Daniel Maris

    We’ll see but I don’t think the Tauregs have been up against a modern military machine yet. There aren’t that many places to hide in the desert. I think the bigger quesiton is whether France can afford it.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      FYI, the Tauregs have been systematically shoved out of the picture. Try to keep up. Or maybe you should just stick to windmills.

    • Tom Tom

      I don;t think “a modern military machine” if France has one has much experience of the desert and certainly not fighting over huge areas against nomads……besides which aren’t we big on self-determination ? Where is the Two-State Solution ?

      • Ron Todd

        The Foreign legion were good at deserts.

      • eeore

        France fought a war for years in Chad… check the atlas it is right next door to Mali.

  • alabenn

    As with all socialist leaders who have recently gone to war they will fail and have to call on the US to pull them out of the crap, Blair in Iraq, Brown in Afghanistan had to call on the Yanks to rescue what ten years previously had been rated one of the top Armies in the world, i think shame will be what defines the Hollande Presidency.

    • eeore


      • alabenn

        So, the scuttle out of Basra under the protection of an Iranian backed militia, followed by a US retake of the town, the surrendering and capture of Royal Navy personnel by Iranians using a couple of skiffs with outboards while a heavily armed Frigate watched.

        The crass scenes in Helmand where troops were getting slaughtered for want of proper equipment while back in the UK Brown was hiring an army of 5 a day fruit cakes, back in Afghanistan this was followed by another scuttle to a safer area while US Marines take over.

        At least Thatcher and Major won their wars and did everything they could to help, not putting silly rules of engagement like don’t shoot until shot at.

        While sensible people know that basically the Army was not fully to blame, the enemy on the ground we are fighting just think we are cowards and will run at the first sign of danger.
        People like you are what donkeys like Brown and Blair appeal to.

        • eeore

          The the donkey is you.

          You bang on about tactical issues, completely overlooking the aim of these wars or the energy pipelines they are set up to create.

          And then to add to your idiocy you start rambling on about ‘socialist’ this and ‘Brown and Bliar’ that.

          Either bother to inform yourself or bare your backside and wait for the pin with the tail.

          • alabenn

            What a crock of crap, that anyone would build a pipeline through one medieval illiterate Islamic state to avoid going through one slightly less illiterate but even more Islamic one is frankly beyond belief.

            Keep looking and you might find that village that is currently in need of an idiot.

  • Man from Palau

    call that soldiers? Don’t forget the i phones boys.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    Well, judging by those crack Tongo troops in that photograph, those islamofascist nutters don’t stand a chance.

    Half the group is on their cell phone.

    And what is that guy carrying in that sack? His lunch?

    • Matthew Blott

      What is a cell phone?

    • salieri

      That’s his laptop. His lunch is standing behind him.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        We could have a lot of fun with the Tonga military juggernaut, couldn’t we?

        • salieri

          I withdraw my disgraceful comment and apologise. Tempting, but unfair of me. Inappropriate, indeed. But let’s focus on the CO: “you put your right foot OUT, you shmuck”…

          • the viceroy’s gin

            Ok, it’s unfair.

            But I laughed uproariously.

            We’ve somehow got to figure out a way to square this circle. That Tonga formation is a target rich environment, and I got tone, baby.

            • Daniel Maris

              You guys would have been assuring us in the 1930s that the Japanese couldn’t fly planes.

              • the viceroy’s gin

                Well, I guess in your fantasy world, that’s probably true.

                Meanwhile, in reality world, you are fantastically assuring us in 2013 that windmills are economic wonders and death panels are health care nirvana.

                • Daniel Maris

                  You mean wind turbines? Yes and the really good news is that a British company (Highview) has now found an effective way to store the energy (back by the Institution of Mechanical Engineering). This will mean we can exploit a market worth $100 billion around the globe over the next ten years.

                  Looks like wind energy will save the economy as well as provide us with cheap, clean energy.

                  See this New Scientist article:


                  Another good news story: the European Patents Office has granted a patent to Italian scientist Piantelli for his method of generating energy from cold fusion.

                  I am sure you can join in welcoming that development.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Sorry, but as you’re ignorant and uneducated re the subject matter, that post is best left unread.

                • Daniel Maris

                  Well taking the novel option – despite the evidence – of assuming you’re right, let’s agree the IME aren’t complete ignoramuses.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  I think we can agree that you’re an uneducated ignoramus, your blather notwithstanding.

                • salieri

                  No, no, please don’t go there: now look what you’ve done.

              • salieri

                Hardly, since the Japanese had already defeated the Russian army and navy within living memory.

                • Daniel Maris

                  I don’t think they were using planes in 1904-5…

                • salieri

                  And the Russians didn’t think they had an army or a navy. They were sorely mistaken.

  • MirthaTidville

    Perhaps now useful idiots like Sarkozy and Cameron might stop and realise the world might have been a little safer if they had left Gaddafi in power. That way neither Libya nor Mali would have been the new residences for Islamic nutters that they have become..I feel sorry for Hollande, he has inherited a an awful problem, and doesn`t have the political experience to draw on. Lets just hope he doesnt pick up the phone and ring London…

    • eeore

      That would be the same Gaddafi that supplied the IRA, and armed sub Saharan Africa for just such an occasion.

      • MirthaTidville

        Indeed, but times and politics change, usually caused by events dear boy. It would still have still been preferable to have left the Devil you knew in charge

        • the viceroy’s gin

          Yes, he had been made to grovel by the end of it, and was a better bargain than the islamofascists.

        • eeore

          One does not operate a strategy to destroy the Chinese by oil and population control, and then allow that strategy to be undermined by one’s arms dealer. Really Sir Humphrey you really need to get up to speed.

    • telemachus

      Blair had it correct
      Major supported him
      As the debacle in Algeria shows Cameron has no Arab nous

      Former PM Sir John Major has defended his successor, Tony Blair, over his decision to improve relations with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2004. Mr Blair shook hands with Col Gaddafi in Tripoli, after the Libyan leader renounced weapons of mass destruction. Sir John told the BBC that had been a “significant prize” even if it looked “slightly embarrassing” in retrospect

  • Tom Tom

    France always tries to involve others and will be inveigling Britain and Germany into a “Coalition of the Willing” with Obama volunteering British forces

    • eeore

      Yeah, and Africom doesn’t exist, and neither is AIDS related to the cancer virus developed by Mary Sherman.

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