French forces have helped the West African country's government stop the advance of al-Qaeda-linked rebels. Now what?
French jets launched airstrikes against Islamist rebels in Mali for the fourth straight day on Monday, as part of an intervention aimed at destroying the fighting capabilities of the insurgents. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France's military involvement in Mali, which the West African country's government requested, would be wrapped up in "a matter of weeks." "We have no intention of staying forever," Fabius said. But rebels of the al-Qaeda-linked Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa warned that the government of French President Francois Hollande would pay dearly, and for a long time to come, for its decision to wade into the fight. "France has opened the gates of hell for all the French," said Oumar Ould Hamaha, a spokesman for the insurgents. Is France helping to squelch a budding terrorist threat, or is it merely making itself a target?
This could be a quagmire: The French intervention "appears to be halting the lightning advance of radical Islamists seen as a threat to Europe," says The Associated Press. Getting out won't be as easy as France hopes, though. In fact, this operation raises "the specter of an African quagmire in a new theater of the West's war on terror just as France and other U.S. allies emerge from the old one in Afghanistan."
"French surprise intervention in Mali aims to stop terrorists, but will it trap Paris, too?"
But France had little choice: Hollande is taking "a big gamble," says Jennifer Welsh at the Toronto Globe and Mail. But French policy makers saw no other option. The Islamists were threatening to overrun government forces, which could have made the country "a new Afghanistan, a failed state and a haven for terrorists." That would have disastrous results for Mali, the rest of Africa, and even Europe.
"Sending soldiers to Mali may be the only solution"
Well, there's no guarantee this risk will pay off: Hollande proved he's "capable of bold and dangerous decisions," says Hugh Schofield at BBC News. And his constituents will no doubt "rally behind the flag" in the coming days and weeks. Perhaps the intervention will succeed in weakening the Islamists so that they "vanish back into the sands" as government forces advance. "But no one should be under the illusion that it will necessarily turn out that way."
"Mali Islamists seize town amid French intervention"
Other stories from this section:
- 10 things you need to know today: January 14, 2013
- Iran's bizarre plan to remake Argo
- 10 things you need to know today: January 13, 2013