West Africa - SahelReadsWeekend

Our secret war in Mali

Our secret war in Mali(BRUSSELS2) The intervention in Mali has barely completed its first phase when a first book is devoted to it. My colleagues, Isabelle Lasserre and Thierry Oberlé, from Le Figaro, acted quickly. Their book takes into account the latest developments on the ground. But they have been following these terrorism cases and the Sahel for some time. It is the whole point of this work not to concentrate solely on Operation Serval but also to place this operation in a general context: the rise of extremist movements in the region, first around the GSPC in Algeria then AQIM, the Tuareg revolts, the weakening of the Malian state, the various perceived threats (narcotics and terrorism). And it helps to grasp the full extent of the problem. We also see how this situation in the Sahel, which very late entered the minds of many European countries, was, on the contrary, very significant in Paris.

It was even the first important subject that the new Minister of Defense, Jean-Yves Le Drian, found when he took charge of the Hotel de Brienne on May 17, 2012, say the authors. “ At the end of the presentation given to him by the intelligence bosses, the new tenant of rue Saint Dominique learns that several infiltration attempts from the Sahel have taken place on French territory since 2009. Immediately, this threat appears to him to be very important, for France, much more than that which comes from Iran or Afghanistan. » Threat summarized in one sentence by a “senior military official”: “ If we don't fight today in the Sahel, we will have to fight tomorrow in Marseille ". The subject will be discussed with the head of the Pentagon at the Chicago summit immediately thereafter. On May 29, a note is written to the President of the Republic which is clear: “Northern Mali has become “a sanctuary for al-Qaeda”. Due to security issues, strategic interests and the presence of hostages, “the status quo cannot be an option. » A three-pronged strategy is approved: “organize a rise in power of the Malian armies (FAM) while mobilizing ECOWAS, deploy a European Union mission to train the FAM; halt the progression and sanctuarization of AQIM.”  (...)

Two options then confront each other: “ one focuses on the rise of African forces and the participation of the European Union in the operation », the other on a solo intervention by the French army. M« It has become clear since the fall of 2012 that Europe is not living up to the expectations of the French Minister of Defense? And that African armies cannot be ready quickly enough to intervene ». And “the threat had become such that we could not fail to deal with it. The probability of going off the road in the first scenario was so high that we quickly had to switch to plan B,” summarizes a general officer. A list of pretexts which would justify a rapid French intervention (is) established.” There won't be a need for it. The movement of different groups towards the south, and Konna, is sounding the alarm.

The rest in the book…

  • “Our secret war in Mali, the new threats against France”, Isabelle Lasserre and Thierry Oberlé (Editions Fayard, Collection Documents, May 2013, 252 pages, €17)

Read also: mali. An operation prepared for a long time… (questions and answers)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).