How France lost its way in Africa's wars

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Nothing has gone to plan in the two military campaigns launched last year by French President François Hollande in Mali and the Central African Republic. In-depth reports by the United Nations, the French parliament and various NGOs detail the huge and quite different problems now faced in both countries, which have resulted in the French army becoming bogged down in its war-torn former colonies. Paris has now announced a new "counter-terrorist" offensive, this time against jihadist groups in the Sahel region of Northern Africa. As Hollande prepares to visit three African countries this week to discuss the move, Mediapart's editor François Bonnet analyses how France has lost its way amid missions that were initially presented as short-term and which now promise the long haul with no exit in sight.   

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It was supposed to be a matter of several weeks, or a few months at the most, the French presidency and defence ministry led us to believe. The duration is now to be counted in years. Nothing has gone as planned in the two ongoing French military interventions in Africa launched by President François Hollande – in Mali, which began in Januray 2013 and in the Central African Republic (CAR), which started in December 2013. Almost 4,000 military personnel are now engaged in the operations, with more reinforcements due to join a larger campaign across the whole of the Sahel region of North Africa.