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The withdrawal of French forces would begin in March. Is this realistic?

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Laurent Fabius announced that the withdrawal of French forces would begin in March. Is this realistic? Is there not a risk of abuse and revenge on Tuareg populations if the French withdraw?

What is the current situation?

All the major cities of the North were released by a rapid offensive of the French Army accompanied by a few dozen Malian soldiers. We should emphasize the rapid response and virtuosity with which, in three weeks, the French army was able to first of all stop the terrorist attack towards the south up to Konna, then move 3500 men on the ground and finally launch an offensive over 1000Km which helped chase terrorists and rebel forces out of all the major cities of northern Mali.

It should also be noted that even if the press was denied any images, this offensive will probably cost the opposing forces the loss of several hundred men, impressive equipment and the destruction of major logistic centers.

This first line intervention of French forces, which I had been saying was essential, has accelerated the mobilization of ECOWAS forces and especially Chad’s decision to send 2,200 experienced soldiers to Mali. The African contingent will secure major cities of Mali and allow the reconstruction of the Malian Army which will be supported by instructors, equipment and money from the European community.

What still needs to be done?

We must now find the terrorists of AQIM, the MUJAO and Islamist Ansar Eddine, who are scattered in small units over an area larger than France, but forced to make their base around water points, which limits the range of possibilities. This work is clearly not that of conventional forces that were the spearhead of the reconquest of northern Mali. It is a work of intelligence and “helping hand” conducted by special forces and paratroopers transported by helicopter or dropped by assault transport aircraft (Transall or Hercules).

In conclusion

Nothing opposes military withdrawal of a large part of the French forces in early March, before the rainy season, when the tracks will become almost unusable.

The humanitarian situation in the north is not great and it is necessary for NGOs that were already present in Mali, such as “Médecins du Monde” and “Action contre la faim” to be given the means to deploy massively on the ground. If abuse is committed, they will be the first to find out and alert the authorities and the media.

General (2S) Jean-Bernard PINATEL