As new humanitarian concerns arise over the situation in Mali, tensions on the ground there have been highlighted by analysts and reporters. Several incidents of retaliation have been reported in recently liberated cities against both “white faces” (Arabic and Tuareg) and black Africans believed to have collaborated with the Islamists. Worse still, summary executions were allegedly carried out by Malian army forces, a prospect about which the United Nations and other observers had warned the French government.
As new reports have surfaced, the attention has shifted to the role of the armed forces intervening in the region, including the French forces deployed in an effort to keep the peace and insure the safety of civilians. Defense minister Yves Le Drian has called for “great vigilance” in reference to the reports, and has attempted to clarify the interactions between French forces and local civilian groups. “The Tuaregs are our friends,” he said, “except for those who chose to join terrorist groups; those we condemn firmly.”
France is facing official criticism for the first time since the beginning of the intervention. Egyptian President and member of the Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Morsi was the first head of state to condemn the intervention in Mali, but his position was quickly dismissed by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius as “a minority in the face of widespread consensus” by the international community. Egyptian Islamists gathered in Cairo to protest the French intervention, calling it an “attack on Islam,” and demanding that ties between Egypt and France be severed and the French ambassador be expelled.
France is, however, not a solitary actor in the intervention effort, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared it is receiving material help from ten countries, including the United States. The US State Department quelled a controversy Tuesday by announcing that the United States would not be billing France for its logistical help, which includes the use of carrier planes and drones, assistance that could amount to as much as $20 million. The operation, launched on January 11, has had a total cost of some 30 million euros as it nears the two-week mark, according to official numbers released by the Elysée.