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African securityHow French strategies prevented Al Qaeda's expansion in Mali

Published 15 December 2015

There have been many books on the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but there are few about the recent military interventions of America’s allies in countries such as Mali and others on the African continent. Because the January 2013 French intervention in Mali against the local Al Qaeda affiliate was quick, effective, and relatively low cost, the story contains valuable lessons for future strategy.

Cambridge University Press has released the book The French War on Al Qa’ida in Africa by Christopher Chivvis, a senior political scientist and the associate director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization.

RAND says that there have been many books on the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but there are few about the recent military interventions of America’s allies in countries such as Mali and others on the African continent. Because the French intervention was quick, effective, and relatively low cost, the story contains valuable lessons for future strategy.

In January 2013, France intervened in its former colony in West Africa to stop Ansar Dine, a local Al Qaeda affiliate, from advancing on the capital. French special forces, warplanes, and army units struck with rapid and unexpected force. Their intervention quickly repelled the jihadist advance and soon the terrorists had been chased from their safe haven in Mali’s desolate north — an impressive accomplishment, according to the new book.

“As ISIS, Al Qa’ida and other terrorist groups expand across North Africa and the Middle East, what France accomplished in Mali in 2013 should be a key reference point for national security experts,” Chivvis said.

Based on interviews with high-level civilian and military officials in Paris, Washington, and Bamako, the Mali capital, the book offers a strategic overview of the war.

This book brings the experience of France — a key U.S. ally — and its struggle against terrorism to light. In doing so, the book offers insights into the terrorist threat and the strategies for fighting it.

More information about the book is available at www.rand.org/t/CB540 and www.cambridge.org/chivvis.