French Intervention in Mali: Counter-terrorism? Neo-colonialism? Mineral-sourcing?

January 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

In an effort to rid Mali of al-Qaeda rebels, French and Malian troops have entered the town of Diabaly, after three days of air strikes.

French involvement in their former colony comes after Mali’s president, Dioncounda Traore, asked the United Nations and France to help rid the country of Islamist militants, who staged a coup in the North of the country last March. In response the UN Security Council called for a “rapid deployment” of international forces, with Security Council President Masood Khan stating that the deterioration of the situation in Mali constituted a “direct threat to international peace and security”.

France Initially insisted their involvement in Mali would only be a “few weeks”, with a focus on training and supporting Mali’s army, now two weeks later, with troop numbers swelling from 800 to 2,500, French military leaders have said they are looking at long-term involvement. French defence minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian told France 5 television that, “The goal is the total reconquest of Mali. We will not leave any pockets (of resistance).”

France’s move to embroil themselves in Mali appears to be received with support from much of the Western world, determined to rid Africa of Islamist extremists. Speaking in the House of Commons, British Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Together with our partners in the region, we are in the midst of a generational struggle against an ideology which is an extreme distortion of the Islamic faith.”

Britain has already lent two military aircraft and Cameron has said that the country may assist further with transport and surveillance, although the Ministry of Defence says there are no plans for British forces to engage in ground combat.

While Britain has resolved to stay out of ground action in Mali, history has not always hold such promises in good stead. This has been pointed out by Sean Rayment from the Telegraph, who mentions that in 2006 Britain sent 3,500 soldiers to Helman Province in Afghanistan and three years later than number had risen to over 10,000.

Though Britain has decided to show its support of France’s actions in Mali, there are questions whether this is not simply neo-colonialism, particularly after French President Francois Hollande had previously stated that he wanted to downsize his country’s military presence in Mali.

Writing for the BBC, Hugh Schofiled says that France’s actions in Mali have the approval of the rest of the world because it is seen to be fighting terrorism. He writes: “Where a few years ago the notion of France sending in troops to fight in a former colony would have provoked howls of contempt… today with the rise of Islamism and the threat we all face, rules have been re-written.”

And in the blogosphere there are speculation and conspiracy theories stating that France’s intervention in Mali is less to do with trying to put a hold on the Islamic extremist presence in Africa and more to do with the country’s mineral sources, including gold and uranium.

R. Teichmann from The Santos Republic has said, “Whatever is reported by the mainstream media, the goal of this new war is no other than stripping yet another country of its natural resources.” This theory has also been expressed by John Laughland, director of studies at Paris’ Institute of democracy and co-operation who believes that action in Mali is a “general trend of intervention in Africa” and that “minerals count.”

Whatever the reason for France’s presence in Mali, she and her allies should look to history and be wary of embroiling themselves in yet another anti-terrorism war that may end up lasting not weeks or months, but years.

Originally published on Mouth London

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