Article published the Wednesday 16 January 2013 - Latest update : Wednesday 16 January 2013

French press review 15 January 2013

By Michael Fitzpatrick

As French air raids continue to strike targets in northern Mali, most of this morning's Paris-based dailies give pride of place to the military action against Islamist fighters.

Why did France decide to take military action? Why now? Why are African and other international troops not fighting alongside the French? Can the Malian army be trusted with the ground war?

Al-Shebab - who are they?

Who are the enemy? Are the current authorities in Bamako worth saving?

These are just some of the questions being asked in this morning's French newspapers.

Centrist Le Monde accepts that the French intervention was necessary in order to prevent the fall of Bamako and the effective takeover of the entire country by fundamentalist Muslims.

Le Monde notes the rapid inflation of the number of French ground troops involved: 550 initially, increasing to an expected 3,000 by the end of this week.

As for why France should get involved in the first place, there are an estimated 30,000 French nationals living and working in the Sahel region; the French company Areva is heavily involved in uranium mining in the region, supplying one-third of the requirements of France's nuclear reactors; and then there's the history of terrorist attacks against French targets, organised by supporters of some of the groups active in northern Mali.

Like secrets? Find out about the Hidden Paris

The French decision to intervene has been widely praised, but serious military support is not being so generously supplied: help with transport and logistics has been offered by several European countries and by the United States. The only soldiers on offer will come from neighbouring African nations, but most commentators agree that it will take as long as three months to get those contingents onto a war footing.

Washington has made it clear that any attempt to sort out the islamists in the north is a waste of time if one does not, first of all, sort out the descredited powers-that-be in Bamako. Paris would probably agree, but clearly felt that the time for diplomatic niceties was over once rebel forces had powered to within 350 kilometres of the capital.

tags: Bamako - France - François Hollande - French press review - Islamist - Mali - Press review - Shebab - War
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