French president François Hollande’s decision to intervene in Mali in January 2013 was a bold move aimed to stop Mali’s descent into chaos, with a jihadi threat that could have seized the capital, Bamako, and turned the country into a future safe haven for terrorist fighters. The French-led Operation Serval, which ended in July 2014, laid the foundation for a larger comprehensive and transnational counterterrorist operation (Operation Barkhane, based in Chad and covering five countries—Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger).

However, Mali still faces daunting challenges rooted in past crises that threaten to undo possible gains made to secure the country. Furthermore, the Malian crisis highlights the nexus between poverty, lack of economic development, permanent political tensions, and religious extremism, which jeopardize any effort to create ...

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