A Success Story

One of the less controversial armed interventions in recent times has been the one by France and certain North African countries in Mali. Perhaps, the reason is that it took place after a request from the Government sitting in Bamako, Mali's capital city.

The man behind the mission : French President Francois Hollande

Initially, when separatists took control over much of Northern Mali the issue never really grabbed headlines or garnered much public attention. Perhaps, at that point of time, no one realized that the situation could turn so dangerous and threatening to international peace and security as it became soon.

The conflict started in January 2012, when Tuareg rebels in Northern Mali, who for long had been demanding a separate homeland called Azawad revolted against the Malian Government. By taking the help of Islamic fundamentalists including Al-Qaeda offshoots, the rebels soon held the area in Northern Mali which they considered to be Azawad.

Meanwhile in Southern Mali, where the Government was centered, the Army, dissatisfied with they way the crisis was being handled staged a coup. They suspended the constitution, assumed full powers and were universally condemned. Thanks to stringent embargoes and sanctions , by May however the Army gave up control and a neutral Prime Minister was chosen.

In the meantime in Northern Mali, the coalition of rebels was breaking up. The separatists were regretting the decision to hold hands with the fundamentalists. The primary difference of opinion was the imposition of sharia law, one of the key demands of the fundamentalists. The coalition broke up and by July, the separatists lost most of the cities and towns to the fundamentalists.

The fundamentalists having supposedly been trained by Pakistani and Afghanistani jihadis and in possession of heavy weaponry and more funds were now a bigger threat to the world. The Malian Government requested for armed foreign intervention and the world responded.

With the authorization of the UN's Security Council, in January 2013, French and North African troops entered Mali. A concentrated offensive under the French forces began. Unable to match the far more superior French army, the fundamentalists were pushed back. To add to the fundamentalist's vows their former allies, the separatists allied with Malian Government.

French Troops in Mali
By February, the Islamists were no longer present in any major city or town in Mali. They retread into the rough badlands of Northern Mali and began using guerrilla tactics. The French army is now currently in the process of flushing them out of there too. Most of the war is now over.

Some of the 4000-strong French troops in Mali have now withdrawn. The Chadian forces, which faced unacceptably high casualties too has withdrawn. By July, democracy is expected to be reinstated and the French troops are going to hand over command to UN Peacekeeping Forces (UNPKF).

It is widely expected that these UN Peacekeeping Forces should be able to face any challenges posed to them by either the fundamentalists or separatists. Meanwhile, they will also begin to train the under-funded and untrained Malian army. The downside risk in this is however, the fact that it is highly possible that the civil war could lead to a long-term insurgency. This could result in a extended stay of the UNPKF in Mali which would be highly avoidable and damaging for the nation.

Notwithstanding, the French mission in Mali has so far been successful. It hasn't been very controversial and it has effectively ended the civil war and restored Government rule in large parts of Mali. If the UN Peacekeeping forces continue to handle the situation well and manage to hand over complete charge of security to the Malian military, Mali like Libya can become a success story.

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