The Other McCain

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France Battles Islamists in Mali

Posted on | January 13, 2013 | 18 Comments

American political commentators have shown little interest in the war that France is fighting against an al-Qaeda-linked uprising in Africa:

As a new round of French military raids targeted Islamist rebels in Mali on Sunday, both sides of the battle said they were determined to win.
Sunday’s raids were the latest in a French operation to help the Malian government stop advances by militant Islamist forces. France has sent several hundred troops to join the fight and plans more raids on Monday, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Radio Europe 1.
“We have to eradicate this terrorism,” he said Sunday.
Islamist rebels in Mali acknowledged Sunday that they had suffered heavy losses in a battle against the country’s military and French troops.
“This is a holy war. The deaths are normal,” said Sanda Ould Boumama, spokesman for the rebel group Ansar Dine, which is linked to al Qaeda.
“Our fighters are prepared to die for our cause,” he told CNN by phone.

More news and background from the BBC:

French warplanes have bombed the town of Gao in eastern Mali, extending their attacks deep into rebel-held territory.
France’s military has been in action against Islamist militants in Mali since Friday, helping government forces recapture the central town of Konna.
A resident in Gao told AFP news agency all Islamist bases in the town had been destroyed and the militants had fled.
Earlier, a presidential official in Paris had described the militants as “well-trained” and “well-armed”.
Islamist groups and secular Tuareg rebels seized northern Mali in April 2011, but the Islamists soon took control of the region’s major towns.
For months, Gao has been in the hands of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao).

OK, you’re probably asking, “Why France?” Beginning in the 1890s, France held Mali as part of its colonial possessions in West Africa. Mali became an independent country in 1960. This history, and the fact that French is the most common European language in Mali, explains why French troops were sent to fight the Islamist rebels.


  • Evi L. Bloggerlady

    Mali is a former French possession. Here is a “historic film” of the French fighting the Arabs… I will say NPR had been reporting on Mali and the al Qaeda forces in country (and not doing a half bad job). I am sure Gore’s new best friends Al Jazeera will have a different take once the Michael Moore film marathon is over.

  • DonaldDouglas

    Dude, I’ve been covering this story like a mofo!

  • Patrick Carroll

    As I recall, during the “Scramble for Africa,” the French decided to scramble from West to East, while the Brits decided to scramble South to North. The outcome was “The Fashoda Incident.” (Not coming to a movie theater near you, anytime soon.)

    Regardless, the Brits made the better scramble, IMHO. The French got desert, while the Brits got, oh, diamonds, ivory, coffee, elephant leg umbrella stands. That sort of thing.

  • Patrick Carroll

    I must say that I’m impressed with the accents, and the willingness to go into combat wearing “Mess Dress” uniforms, compete with medals.

    Forget “L’audace!” These guys have “Le Style!”

  • richard mcenroe

    It’s not that. They think if they get captured in that get-up, the locals will think they’re the Emperor Jones and put them in charge.

  • Patrick Carroll

    Pity they couldn’t have done a “Ruby Rhod” act. That would have put the natives right over the edge.

  • Bob Belvedere

    The world has truly turned upside down when I’m cheering along the bloody French.

  • Patrick Carroll

    I’m with you.

    For myself, I’ve always liked the Duke of Wellingtons proclamation that “We always have been, we are, and I hope that we always shall be detested in France.”

    Still, when the French stand up for a fight like this, I will always cheer them on. Even while I wonder what’s in it for them. Because, believe me, there is somthing in it for them.

  • Adjoran

    Actually, the French are leading because Mali is among the remaining areas of the “French Sphere of Influence” after WWII. The US realized that even we couldn’t hold back the Soviets in Europe and also keep the peace in all the world’s hot spots, so Britain and France were tasked with policing their former colonies.

    That’s why France was on point in Indochina until they were run out.

  • Evi L. Bloggerlady

    Point taken. Yes you have.

  • DaveO

    AQ is using child soldiers. Once pictures of 8 yr-olds slaughtered by Legionnaires in a fire fight gets out, France will surrender.
    The war is only necessary to draw attention away from the new regime’s tax horror and the flight of French Celebrity.

  • Bob Belvedere

    Sadly, methinks you’re a prophet.

  • DaveO

    Thank you for the compliment but I disagree. I’m just fascinated with history and humanity.

  • M. Thompson

    African policy in France is still very much on the “We let you guys have the baubles, we still call the shots.”

    Much better than pretending they were a real country and being shocked when it all fell in to nasty violence.

  • Steve Skubinna

    And the Belgians got Joseph Conrad and Heart of Darkness.

  • 20thCenturyVole

    They’d be better off fighting them in the outskirts of Paris.

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