France’s January intervention in Mali to push back advancing Islamist forces was supposed to be a quick blow against a separatist insurgency. Instead, French involvement, though largely successful, has lasted through the year—and 2013 has seen a rise of Islamist extremist-fueled terrorism across Africa, including a hostage crisis at an Algerian oil field that left 39 foreigners dead; repeated ruthless attacks by the Boko Haram terror group in Nigeria; and the assault on an upscale Nairobi mall by al-Shabab, a Somali al-Qaeda affiliate, that killed at least 68 people.
The violence has drawn the attention of Western powers. The U.S. established a regional drone base for the Sahel in Niger in February and has attempted special operation raids in Libya and Somalia, including a failed attempt against a top al-Shabab commander who was said to be behind the Westgate Mall attacks. And in November, France announced that it would beef up its troop presence in another former colony, the Central African Republic, where the onslaught of rebel factions that are dominated by Muslim fighters has put the country on “the verge of genocide,” according to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.