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France commits to a long war just three months after launching its biggest military operation in Africa in 50 years

The official version is that France’s Mali operation has achieved all its objectives – the expulsion of jihadist forces from main northern towns and the destruction of several bases in the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains – apart from the rescue of seven hostages still held in the region. This week the withdrawal began, with 100 or so French soldiers going home. France had airlifted 4,000 troops to Mali and sent another 2,000 from its bases in Chad and Côte d’Ivoire. Initially, French President François Hollande’s government had said that all French troops would be out after elections were organised: they are scheduled for July. However, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who has been sceptical about the operation from the start, announced on a 5 April visit to Bamako that France would maintain a ‘support force’ of 1,000 soldiers in Mali on a ‘permanent basis’. This was France’s first public commitment to a long-term military presence. It was more forceful coming from the cautious Fabius rather than the more bullish Defence Minister, Jean-Yves le Drian.

(This article contains approximately 1966 words)

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Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, François Hollande, Laurent Fabius, Jean-Yves le Drian, Nicolas Sarkoz, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Afghanistan, Iraq, Abdel Hamid Abou Zeid, Iyad ag Ghali, Nigeriens, Mauritania, Burundi, Somalia, British, Jérôme Cahuzac, United States, Benoît Puga, Libya, Bernard Bajolet, Erard Corbin De Mangoux, France, Algeria and Mali, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Dioncounda Traoré, Morocco, Ban Ki-moon, Mohammed, South Africa, Mission internationale de soutien au Mali, Françafrique, Parti Socialiste, Al Qaida, Ansar Eddine, Mouvement pour l’unicité et le jihad en Afrique de l’ouest, Al Haraka al Shabaab al Mujahideen, Cellule africaine, Mouvement national de Libération de l’Azawad, Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure, Commandement des Opérations Spéciales, Comité d’état-major opérationnel conjoint