The Washington Post

The French didn’t fail in Mali


I take exception to William Drozdiak’s belief that the French military failed in Mali, as he wrote in his Aug. 30 Tuesday Opinion commentary, “The French just gave us another lesson in how not to fight terrorism.” The French military has more experience in fighting insurgenci­es than most Western militaries. It fought against insurgenci­es in Indochina and Algeria in the 1950s.

As Mr. Drozdiak correctly wrote, “Defeating Islamist extremists (an insurgency) can only be achieved by providing local population­s with hope for a better life” — i.e., to win the hearts and minds of the people. Unless the military rulers of Mali are willing to give power to the civilians, as France demands, there is no hope of defeating the Islamist extremists. The French recognized the futility of the effort given the present situation and decided not to further risk French lives for a losing situation. It took the United States 20 years to recognize that in Afghanista­n. Better to let the Russian Wagner Group mercenarie­s lose their lives in a failing effort.

Jerome T. Paull, Arlington

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