21 January 2013

Mali: French Unity On Mali Begins to Crack

Photo: Ministère de la défense française
A French military operation in Mali.

French former Prime Minister Alain Juppé has called for clarification of France's objectives in Mali, after current Defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian appeared to suggest that the French army was intent on eliminating the islamists from the North.

"The original aim was to stop the jihadists and terrorists from reaching Bamako," Juppé told French radio station Europe 1. "I have the impression today that we have undertaken the total re-capture of Malian territory, which is an immense task."

"France does not have the means to do this alone" Juppé declared. "We must be more active in re establishing constitutional order in Mali".

He said that only an African force could help restore such order in Mali.

When French president François Hollande launched the offensive on 11 January, he spoke of stopping the advance of the islamists from the North and protecting the 6,000 French citizens in Mali.

Jean-François Copé, of the opposition UMP party like Juppé, also raised questions about France's military intervention in Mali, in an interview on French television station BFM-TV.

"Is it a struggle against international terrorism? Is it a struggle against terrorism in the region? Is it to allow the re unification of Mali?"

After a meeting to discuss defence and security issues on Monday, Hollande said "The objective was to stop the terrorist offensive. That has been done". He said that the second aim of helping the Malian army to recapture towns lost to the jihadists was in progress.

The third objective he said, was to allow an international force to take over to allow the re unification of Mali.

"We know that will take longer," he stated.

A French diplomatic source said that Hollande told British Prime Minister David Cameron on the phone "I'll do whatever it takes".

The same source said that US President Barack was a major influence in Obama Hollande's decision to intervene in Mali.

The US regards the operation as vital and in return is offering more help than either Paris or Washington has acknowledged.

With a few exceptions, politicians across the political spectrum in France, supported Hollande's military intervention when it began on 11 January.

But there are growing signs of dissent amid worries that France is isolated, with little concrete help from fellow European countries to match their supportive words.

And some of Hollande's political opponents are anxious that his decision to go to war in Mali could lead to a significant boost in his popularity ratings.

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