France’s military intervention was in response to a request by Mali and is fully supported by its government and people

Since January 11, the French and Malian armed forces have been engaged together in a military operation to halt armed terrorist groups. They were threatening the whole of Mali. France and Mali shared the conviction that this was a matter of utmost emergency.

As terrorism is a global threat, and India also a victim of terrorism, we wish to explain to our Indian friends the urgent challenges at stake in Mali and the international legal and political framework of this military operation.

Necessity to act

The situation in Mali was increasingly dangerous. Terrorist groups setting up in northern Mali have been destabilising the country, brutalising and killing civilians and destroying invaluable cultural heritage. Mali’s integrity was at stake. The stability of the entire Sahelian region and beyond was threatened. The security of Europe as well.

The terrorist groups have launched a southward attack early January, involving hundreds of armed militants. They had realised that time was running out for them. Last December, the adoption of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2085, with the help of our Indian partner, authorised an African-led International Support Mission to Mali, or Afisma. Terrorists tried to take advantage of the delay before its full deployment. Their objective was to seize new strategic positions by force and trigger the collapse of the whole country to establish a stronghold. By getting closer to the Malian capital city, Bamako, they were planning to make it almost impossible to roll them back.

The terrorists had to be stopped without delay. This first action was a precondition for allowing the second step, i.e. the swift deployment of the Afisma. The French deployment is not a substitute to the African force. The final aim is to restore Mali’s territorial integrity, and address the situation within a comprehensive framework, including the political and developmental dimensions.

France’s intervention falls strictly within international law: it responded to a formal request by the Malian President. It is being conducted in accordance with the U.N. Charter and the resolutions of the Security Council. In a letter sent to French President François Hollande, Malian President Dioncounda Traoré, warmly and sincerely thanked the French people for their timely support on behalf of the Malian people.

Rooted in international strategy

Our joint action has received strong international political backing. Meeting in New York on January 14, all the members of the Security Council expressed their support to this intervention. The U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, confirmed the United Nations’ full support. Mali and France have already been able to count on many international partners’ support, notably from the African Union and the Ecowas, which is the West African subregional organisation. Several countries have committed military support, such as the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the United States, Canada, with others, such as Russia, to follow.

Resolve to fight terrorism

Preparations are being stepped up for the deployment of a West African force. Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria and Togo have prepositioned their contingents for urgent deployment. Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone will also contribute to the deployment of Afisma. Non-Ecowas African countries will also participate, such as Chad, who has pledged to deploy troops in support of the Afisma operations. The objective is to deploy Afisma as soon as possible. The military command is already being deployed to Bamako and troop deployment has started, with Benin, Nigerian and Togolese contingents. The Ecowas summit just held in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire) has reiterated the African resolve to act and called for more support. A donors’ conference will take place in Addis Ababa at the end of January on the occasion of the African Union summit. The European Union (EU) has decided last Thursday to establish a training mission in Mali (EUTM Mali) that will help the Malian Armed Forces to improve their military capacity. The EU is also providing significant financial support: it has allocated over €660 million to the Sahel region and, in the framework of the Strategy for Development and Security in the Sahel adopted in 2011, the EU has further mobilised additional financial resources for projects worth €167 million.

The operation is under way and is going on satisfactorily — 2,900 French troops are already engaged alongside of the Malian Army. It will last as long as necessary. Terrorist groups can be sure of our resolve: air strikes are conducted by French Rafale and Mirage aircrafts every day, with Malian as well as French troops fighting on the ground. Several cities have already been liberated. This joint operation highlights the trust and friendship between Mali and France and our common dedication to fighting terrorism.

Algerian incident

Terrorism is one of the most serious threats to international security. We know what sort of barbaric acts the terrorist groups in Mali are committing. We know what their objectives are. We will not let them achieve them. We are grateful for the overwhelming international support we are receiving since the beginning of our operation. It shows that the international community is united in fighting a threat which is characterised by global links and interaction between individuals and groups, wherever they are.

The brutal large-scale terrorist attack in the south of Algeria which has just taken place proves it once again. A large number of foreign nationals working on the site have been murdered. Confronted with what can only be described as an act of war, the Algerian authorities had no other choice but to act swiftly.

There should be no respite in our fight against terrorism. By combating alongside the Malian armed forces, and in the framework of international law, France is shouldering her international responsibilities and fulfilling her international obligations. India, by voting in favour of Resolutions 2056, 2071 and 2085 in the U.N. Security Council, has showed her deep sense of international responsibility. In the ongoing fight against terrorism in Mali, France and Mali know that they can rely on the full understanding and solidarity of Indians, who have already borne the brunt of heinous terrorist acts.

(H.E. Ousmane Tandia is Ambassador of Mali to India and H.E. François Richier is Ambassador of France to India.)