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Mali war costs debt-laden France 70 million euros


France has spent an average of 2.7 million euros per day on its military intervention in Mali so far, an expenditure that could be questioned as the war effort in the West African nation evolves.


French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a closed-door parliamentary commission on Wednesday that the country’s war in Mali had cost 70 million euros so far, according to information initially leaked to French media and later confirmed by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

The cost of the war has risen above daily estimates for France’s military involvement in Libya and Afghanistan, and could be questioned at home as the intervention in the West African country enters a new stage.

France’s effort to reclaim northern Mali from armed rebels, including hard-line Islamists, has cost an average of 2.7 million euros per day since it was launched on January 11. That figure compared to an average cost of 1.6 million euros per day for the intervention that toppled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and 1.4 million euros per day for the NATO-led war in Afghanistan, Le Parisien daily reported.

According to Alexandre Vautravers, head of the International Relations Department at Webster University in Geneva and a military history expert, the figures revealed are likely to be a low assessment.

“It all depends on what you are counting, but in regards to France, estimates [of war costs] tend to be very conservative,” the scholar told France 24.

War bonuses and wheels

Vautravers said that French soldiers’ salaries and war bonuses were the largest single budget items in any war, but that France had deployed an especially large amount of material, including heavy ground vehicles, in a short time in Mali.

Le Drian told members of parliament that France had mobilised 10,000 tons of military material in 15 days in Mali, according to Le Parisien. Transportation of soldiers and military hardware had cost 50 million euros so far, the newspaper quoted the defence minister as saying.

France’s so-called “Serval” operation in Mali counts 4,600 soldiers, 3,500 of which are serving on the ground. France’s Defence Ministry has said the operation has reached its maximum troop level.

Speaking to RMC radio on Thursday, Foreign Minister Fabius remained vague about how long French combat troops would remain on the ground. “Beginning in March we will begin to lower our presence, but that does not mean we will leave from one day to the next,” he said. “We need to pass the baton to the Malians and the Africans.”

Maintaining support at home

Fabius said the war represented “a great effort” for France, which is struggling to balance its budget while tackling low growth and high unemployment.

So far the public has largely rallied behind President François Hollande’s war in Mali. Favourable opinion of France’s role in the embattled country is likely to continue in the short term, despite the revelation of its costs, according to Webster University’s Vautravers.

However, the war expert said there could be challenges as the “straightforward” military mission gave way building up Mali’s weakened government and transferring security operations to Malian and African troops.

“Down the line news could filter out about dissention or corruption within the Mali government. Then the nature of the debate could be quite different,” Vautravers said. “Things will become less manageable over time, and it’s then that people could start questioning the amount of money France spends in Mali.”


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