01/31/2013 03:47 EST | Updated 04/01/2013 05:12 EDT

French defence minister says French don't intend to stay but now 'not time to disengage'

PARIS - France's defence minister is calling the nearly three-week-old military operation in Mali a success.

Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian made the comments Thursday after French-led forces took control of the three provincial capitals held by the Islamists since last April.

But Le Drian told France Inter radio that doesn't mean that the military risks and combat are finished. He says the French don't intend to stay but "this isn't the time to disengage."

France launched its military offensive Jan. 11 after radical Islamists surged into central Mali from their strongholds in the north.

The French and Malians have recaptured Gao and Timbuktu, and announced Wednesday that forces had arrived in Kidal.