French President François Hollande has launched a military intervention into war-torn Mali, where a civil war has been raging for months. The French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault explained the rationale for the French intervention, claiming that military action is justified “pour stopper la menace terroriste.”
Le Monde reports on President Hollande’s decision to intervene and the reaction of the French public.
Islamist militant groups have conquered large portions of northern Mali and have taken control of Timbuktu. African states and organizations have backed the legitimate Malian government and supported its operations against the Islamist militants, which it regards as rebels.
French special forces have already conducted raids against Islamist forces within Mali and have supported Malian troops on the ground. Malian government forces have reported retaken the strategically important town of Konna. One French helicopter pilot was killed in the initial attacks, according to French Ministry of Defense.
French troops have also been deployed in the capital, Bamako. The French Minister of Defense declared that the French forces are in the capital “pour contribuer à la protection de Bamako et pour assurer la sécurité de nos ressortissants.”
Le Monde reports on the French operations in Mali. Another Le Monde article provides background on the current civil war in Mali. The BBC and the Washington Post provide reporting on the operations in English.
French special forces have also reportedly carried out a raid in Somalia in order to liberate a French military intelligence officer held hostage there since 2009. Reports are still sketchy on this raid, however.
Historians and political scientists interested in French war and society will want to follow the developing news on the French intervention in Africa. The military intervention has implications for French and European Union politics, Franco-African relations, and Mediterranean exchanges. France has long maintained neo-colonial relationships with West Africa and this intervention will raise new questions about whether or not French forces can operate effectively in Mali. The intervention aims to stabilize the Mali government and state security, raising new questions about state development processes and state-building efforts in West Africa.
Update: The French Air Force has launched air strikes on rebel military forces and supply bases in and around Gao, according to a report on 13 January by the BBC. The French military intervention in Mali seems to be expanding rapidly.