- By J. Dana StusterJ. Dana Stuster is a policy analyst at the National Security Network.
As French President François Hollande spoke at the inauguration of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Mali’s first elected president since the country’s unrest began in March 2012 with a coup, all that was missing was a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner.
"We have won this war; we have chased out the terrorists; we have secured the north and finally … we have, you have organized an uncontested election and the winner is now the president of Mali," he told the crowd gathered at a sports arena in Bamako, the capital, on Thursday, according to the Associated Press’s report.
Hollande was insistent about that we, and didn’t hesitate to boast about France’s role in bringing about this moment. "If there had not been an intervention," he told the crowd, "today the terrorists would be here in Bamako."
France has begun withdrawing some of the 4,000 troops it deployed to Mali last winter, and plans to pull more out as a U.N. peacekeeping force increases its presence in the country. Hollande is certainly winding down his war. But is it won, as he claimed today?
The jihadi rebels in Mali seem to have disappeared as much they were defeated. Some fled into the Central African Republic, where they’re accused of committing massacres. Others have fled to Niger, Algeria, and Libya, leaving behind weapons caches buried in the Sahara. "They absolutely refuse to fight us," a French soldier told the Wall Street Journal. Now those combat-veteran jihadists are waiting in the wings, still staging occasional attacks — like the one that occurred right after FP‘s Yochi Dreazen left Mali, when a roadside bomb killed two Malian soldiers in Gao — and waiting for their moment to stage a comeback.