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Mali, political and military certainties, risks and objectives for France

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The certainties

Thanks to our bases and the armed forces pre-positioned in Africa, France was the only power able to immediately stop the rebel and terrorist offensive towards Bamako.

The French armies have significant political and military experience of combats in the Sahel due to our engagement in Chad from 1969 to the current day.

What can we learn from this experience ?

  • Never have the black governments of the South been able to establish long term control on the territories and the populations living in the desert zones. Consequently, we will be able to regain control of Timbuktu and Gao but never the deserts north of the Niger river to the Algerian border unless we favor the implementation in Bamako of a government led by a Northern leader (which is the case in Chad), or if the Malian government accepts to negotiate with the Tuareg leaders for the autonomy of Azawad;
  • There will never be a Malian army able to ensure the safety of its territory until the pro-coup military return to their units or have been put into prison, and that a democratically elected political power has been implemented in Bamako;
  • The ECOWAS governments don’t have the resources or the will to help Mali and the Malian army in a decisive manner;
  • The risk of there being violence and massacres against the Tuareg population by the armed forces, and Malian security during an offensive towards the North mustn’t be underestimated.

Subsequent military and political objectives for the French government

  • Limiting actions at first to ensuring the safety of southern Mali by opposing all rebel attacks beyond the Mopti-Sandare line. This objective must allow us to ensure the safety of the French nationals and provide the time needed to set up a legitimately elected power in Bamako and to rebuild a Malian army capable of taking charge of the combats on the ground;
  • On the military front, only aiming to weaken the terrorist forces, without showing an aim to destroy them which is impossible. The Tuareg rebellion is endemic and can only be weakened by a political negotiation. Putting the military effort on AQIM and MUJAO forces whilst maintaining contacts and negotiations with Ansar Dine, with whom a national reconciliation should remain a possibility;
  • Only supporting the reconquest of the important towns North of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal when these two political and military conditions are filled by clearly advertising that this objective must be linked to the implementation in these cities of Tuareg political leaders that have remained faithful or neutral since September 2012;
  • Setting up in each Malian company a team of counselors that will have an official counseling role and the unofficial mission of making sure that the Malian army doesn’t retaliate against the local population of these towns;
  • The objective of destroying AQIM and Mujao forces cannot be carried out without the military engagement of countries bordering Mali, particularly Algeria, or without the establishment of a coalition of forces from the major European countries and help from the USA.

The strategy to be implemented must therefore be global and combine diplomatic, political and military maneuvers. It is the only way to put an end to the instability in the Sahel which is strongly rooted and has a dangerous potential.

General (2S) Jean-Bernard PINATEL