Continued fighting casts doubt on quick French exit from Mali
Fri Feb 15, 2013 3:17AM
France is hoping for a quick exit from Mali, but a new surge of attacks by local fighters may make the French retreat even more difficult. Now many wonder who will establish security amid new reports of ethnic-cleansing by the Malian army.In the city of Gao, repeated bomber attacks, renewed ground combat and the discovery of a massive 600-kilogram bomb are jeopardizing Paris’ hopes for a quick retreat from Mali. As many had predicted, France’s claim of routing the local fighters appears to have been premature. While the Malian and French forces continue to withhold regular updates, the civilian death toll continues will rise, as does the trauma to local residents. Just as worrying are continued reports of extrajudicial killings and arrests against ethnic Arabs and Tuaregs. The main Tuareg group, the MLNA, has apprehended top Al-Qaeda-affiliated insurgents and continues to fight for autonomy. But many doubt a diplomatic solution will arrive quickly. France hasn’t started a genuine diplomatic process yet, but when they finally do, some of these groups will probably try to sabotage the negotiations and that will make the intervention last even longer. As the Mali intervention is costing France 70 million euros a day, they are pushing the UN to take over military operations by next month. But a coalition of African forces is already struggling to control the powder keg that was exploded by French air raids. Continued attacks by local fighters could force France to stay in Mali longer to try and establish some security. Many wonder if a long-term presence in their former colony is what France has wanted all along.