PARIS — Following a military intervention into Mali that proved much easier than initially projected, former French President François Hollande announced his country’s unequivocal surrender to the same Islamist rebels its forces had dispatched handily and in short order.
“Americans have a phrase, ‘throwing in the towel,” French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on France’s RTL radio. “We like this expression very much. We are ‘throwing in the towel’ on this one,” declared Le Drian, despite widespread accounts that victory was at hand. Apparently, French leaders are so unaccustomed with what the successful prosecution of war looks like that they misunderstood what was happening on the ground.
Unaccustomed to successfully conducting warfare after a series of lackluster campaigns in the twentieth century, President Hollande seemed not to notice that his country’s forces had dispatched most of the rebels, thus achieving certain victory.
Since sending military forces into Mali on January 11 at the request of Malian military officer Amadou Haya Sanogo, the war has cost France over $133 million – a figure that nonetheless pales in comparison to the 65.4 million French citizens affected by their government’s decision to completely give up.
When the French Armed Forces initially intervened to stop the spread of Islamic fundamentalists in northwestern Africa, French and Malian forces were able to retake cities in northern Mali with little effort. However, fighting recently reached the mountains of the southern Sahara, providing greater challenges for the military.
“When we first began assisting the Malian government, our thinking was that the Islamist rebels would offer small levels of resistance,” said Le Drian. “Again, to borrow an American phrase, we thought it would be ‘a real slam dunk.’ This was not the case. It was not a ‘slam dunk’ at all.”