in: Journal of Strategic Studies 43 (4), 560-582
President François Hollande entered public office in 2012 with a non-interventionist agenda that promised to draw down French troops in Africa and promoted collective African and European mechanisms to reduce France’s military footprint in the region. One year later, the same president deployed 4,000 combat troops to Mali, initially without any multilateral participation. To understand this apparent contradiction between multilateral rhetoric and operational unilateralism, this article looks at France’s efforts in previous years to establish African and European military operations in support of the Malian state. The article finds that France’s commitment to multilateralism is genuine yet not absolute – meaning that French policy-makers do not shy away from operational unilateralism if conditions on the ground seem to require swift and robust military action, as long as they can count on the political support of key international partners.