By Julia Schoonover
On Tuesday, November 10, 2015 the World Affairs Council- Washington, DC hosted Dr. Christopher S. Chivvis as part of an Author Series event. Dr. Chivvis discussed his most recent book, The French War on Al Qa’ida in Africa.
Dr. Chivvis is currently the Associate Director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center and a senior Political Scientist at the RAND Corporation. He is also an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Foreign Policy, The National Interest, Survival, The Washington Quarterly, The Christian Science Monitor, CNN.com, and other publications.
Dr. Chivvis has authored two other academic books: Toppling Qaddafi: Libya and the Limits of Liberal Intervention (2013) and The Monetary Conservative: Jacques Rueff and Twentieth- Century Free Market Thought (2010).
Although he is a specialist in national security issues in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East- including NATO, military interventions, and deterrence- he spoke specifically on the French intervention in Africa that occurred in 2013.
In 2012, the world was shocked as militant Islamists overtook northern Mali, capturing the ancient city of Timbuktu, instituting Sharia law, and destroying many of the city’s cultural and scholarly icons. Many feared they would take control of the entire country. In January 2013, France intervened in its former colony, stopping an Al Qa'ida advance on the capital. French military intervention prevented Mali from falling into the hands of Al Qa’ida, but the forces also helped promote stability in the region, preventing the extremists’ return. This intervention was fairly quick, effective, and relatively low cost.
Chivvis stated that, “what the French accomplished in 2013 is crucial in understanding what world military’s will do in the future to combat these groups.” He also went on to say that, “France is a different case, we must be careful to carry this over to the United States today.”
French military was to act quick to these terror groups, but they also didn’t plan to stay in the region long, even though they had a plan to keep a stabilizing force in the region. Their intervention also showed non-believers that military invention can be effective and successful. Chivvis stated that this intervention was seen as a success because of the coordination between countries specifically the United States providing fuel. Chivvis stated that he overall this intervention as a success because, “Mali is better after the intervention than they would have been without it.”
Chivvis was careful to state that there is still work that needs to be done in North Africa. Development in the North is crucial to combat terror groups. The state’s citizens must see a loyalty and hope within their own country so they can no longer be marginalized and later recruited.
This example of military involvement not only showed how intervention can be successful, but the strength of the French military and the important role it can play looking forward. Looking forward we must also incorporate North Africa when examining terrorism.