According to a recent survey a majority of the French public support the French-led intervention in Mali, with three quarters of those surveyed expressing support. The decision by French President François Hollande to intervene in Mali is also supported by some of his political opponents.
The survey was released shortly before French forces began their ground offensive in Mali. This morning it was reported that French troops were engaging in street battles in the town of Diabaly 220 miles north of the capital Bamako.
The pollster said that support for the intervention could begin to wane if French forces remain in Mali for too long. From The Wall Street Journal:
"Mr. Hollande has made the right choice," said Pierre Méhaignerie, an opposition center-right lawmaker. "In this case he's shown decisiveness, something he hasn't done on other issues."
But analysts warn the tide could turn quickly if the French army becomes bogged down in Mali.
"A short mission that ends with a clear victory will be beneficial for Mr. Hollande," said Stefan Collignon, a professor at Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, Italy. "But the longer French troops remain in Mali, the more discontent is likely to grow in France."
Hollande has said that French troops will leave Mali when certain conditions are met:
During a visit to the United Arab Emirates, French President Francois Hollande said French troops will stay in Mali until it would have legitimate leaders, an electoral process and no more terrorists threatening its territory.
It could be some time before Mali has legitimate leadership and is free from threats of terrorism. By outlining these conditions Hollande is setting himself up for a drawn-out operation in Mali, which could impact his popularity. Recent interventions tend to lose support the longer they go on. Although different from the intervention in Mali in at least one important respect (the Malian government invited intervention, the Taliban did not) the intervention in Afghanistan also aimed at least in part to establish political legitimacy and remove the threat of terrorism, and it has been losing support since 2002:
The U.S. intervention in Iraq (another situation where, unlike Mali, the intervention was not invited) also lost support after it started:
As popular as the intervention in Mali is now Hollande should consider that public support for the mission in Mali will almost certainly begin to fall if the mission is not concluded quickly.