Only eight days ago French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was promising to continue the French invasion of Mali at all costs under all resistance was wiped out, terming his goal a “total reconquest” of Mali.
Today, French President Francois Hollande suggested that the French role in the war as the lead invasion forces are virtually over, saying it was time the “Africans can take over.”
Officially, French officials are treating this as victory, with Le Drian saying that the military’s goal of seizing control of population centers in the north has been met, even though troops have gone no further north than Timbuktu and nearly 2/3 of the nation remains rebel-held.
In practice this change comes as France is facing criticism for its civilian killings and as officials have conceded the fight is tougher than anticipated. This suggests that France is rethinking a war they figured would be a sweeping victory in a matter of weeks and is backing away from the pledge to turn Mali into a terror-free democracy as a practical matter.
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