The first significant crack in domestic support for France's military intervention in Mali appeared on Sunday when a former prime minister warned that the operation was destined to fail.
"None of the conditions for success have been met," Dominique Villepin warned in a column for the Journal du Dimanche newspaper.
Villepin, a Gaullist, served as both foreign and prime minister under President Jacques Chirac and was a prominent opponent of the 2003 US-led war in Iraq.
In his article, he said the intervention in Mali was blighted by the same strategic planning errors that had characterised that campaign.
"How has the neo-conservative virus been able to infect so many minds?" Villepin wrote.
"The gung-ho unanimity in favour of war and the deja vu arguments about a war on terror worry me," he said, adding: "Only a political process will bring peace to Mali."
Villepin argued that France had sent its forces into action without clear objectives.
"Stopping the jihadists advance south, retaking the north, eradicating AQIM (Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) bases -- these are all different wars," he wrote.
He said that France would be fighting alone since Mali was essentially a failed state with an unreliable army.
And he also warned that regional support for the intervention was fragile, with neighbouring Algeria opposed to the presence of French troops and even west African countries that have committed forces happy to take a back seat.
French President Francois Hollande's decision to authorise intervention in Mali has been strongly backed by mainstream political leaders with the only dissenting voices prior to Villepin's intervention coming from the far left.
Villepin is no longer active in French politics after failing to win sufficient backing to run a campaign to be the centre-right's candidate for the 2012 presidential election that Hollande won.
© 2013 AFP
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