An upbeat narrative has permeated most military progress reports about French military intervention in Mali. Five weeks after the start of their military campaign, the French believe they have already achieved about “70% of the set-objectives”. They have indeed retaken the cities of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal. Then, with the help of Chadian and Malian armies, their expeditionary forces have dealt heavy blows to Jihadist positions in the Ifoghas and Timetrine regions, north east of Mali. Two of Al-Qaida’s leaders in the region, Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, have been reportedly killed in the fighting. Compared to the relatively limited casualties in the French expeditionary force, hundreds are said to have been killed in the ranks of Ansar al-Dine, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJAW) and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). French columnist Ivan Rioufol goes as far to say the French are “conducting an exemplary war.” Beyond arguing about the “exemplariness” of this war (or any war), is there reason to believe there is a clear endgame in sight here?
Quick military victories alone will not provide an endgame for the Sahel’s widening arc of crisisOussama Romdhani
Public opinion trends have also fluctuated. In the first week of February, the swift military victories and the warm welcome given in Mali to President Francois Hollande have boosted French public opinion support for the war to a high 73%. By the end of February, however, the level of support dropped to 60% --with women, young people, low-income categories and right-wing sympathizers showing even less support for the military campaign than the rest of the population.