PARIS – In less than two years, France has carried out three decisive foreign military interventions. In March 2011, its airstrikes in Libya (alongside those of Great Britain) thwarted Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi’s troops as they prepared to retake the city of Benghazi. A month later, French forces in Côte d’Ivoire arrested President Laurent Gbagbo, who had refused to recognize his rival’s election victory, putting the country at risk of civil war. Now France has intervened in Mali.
The latest intervention was initially planned as part of a European mission to support African forces, but France abruptly decided to act unilaterally to blunt the advance of Islamists who threatened to overrun Mopti, the last barrier before reaching the capital, Bamako. Beyond that objective, France seeks to protect its many nationals in the region; maintain stability in the Sahel, where states are very weak; and prevent Mali’s transformation into a base of Islamist terrorism directed at Europe.