Paris — Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a future reduction in France’s military presence in the Sahel region of Africa to combat Islamic extremism.
At a press conference, Macron talked about the “significant change” in French military operations in Mali and neighboring countries without giving a time frame.
Operation Barkhane in France has officially ended and will be replaced by another mission focused on fighting Islamic extremists who are more dependent on their regional partners.
Details will be announced at the end of June, including the number of troops France has stationed in the area, he said. France currently has an army of more than 5,000 in the Sahel.
“The ultimate goal is to reduce multiple military deployments in the region,” he said.
“Once again, France is in Africa only at the request of Africans … to fight terrorism,” Macron added. “But the form of our existence, an overseas operation involving an army of 5,000, is no longer adapted to the reality of combat.”
He focuses on deploying special forces in collaboration with other European countries as part of the so-called Takuba Task Force, which France intended to play an increasingly important role in the fight against militants in the future. Said.
A senior French official said it would take several months to implement the change. He said Paris would first meet with European and African partners.
A total of thousands of French troops will remain in the area and participate in various operations, including new cooperative missions.
“In the end, France’s presence in the Sahel remains important,” officials said. He spoke anonymously according to presidential customs.
French troops have been stationed in Mali since 2013, when they intervened to force Islamic extremist rebels out of power in towns in the northern part of the country. Operation Serval was later replaced by Operation Barkhane and expanded to include Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania to help stabilize the wider Sahel region.
However, Islamic terrorists continue to launch devastating attacks on the troops fighting them and on increasingly civilians. About a week ago, Burkina Faso militants launched the deadliest attack in a few years, killing at least 132 people.
Hundreds of people have been killed since January in a series of massacres targeting villages on the border between Niger and Mali.
The Sahelian government has accepted French military aid, but some critics liken their existence to traces of French colonial rule.
Conflict analysts say the move may be related to Mali’s political instability. France’s announcement came a few days after Mali’s coup leader, Assimi Goita, took office as president of the caretaker government and held a second coup in nine months, after consolidating power in West African countries. It is done.
Michael Shurkin, director of the global program at 14 North Strategies, a consultancy based in Dakar, Senegal, said: However, Goita’s continuous coup suggests that Marian is not. “
Siaka Coulibaly, an analyst at Burkina Faso’s Citizens’ Center for Public Policy Oversight, said the decision was not surprising, but worried about the consequences of military cuts.
“Operation Barkhane’s reduction does not affect Mali because Russian troops arrive and replace them, while terrorists try to move towards Burkina Faso and possibly spread south. The cuts will affect Burkina Faso, “Courivery said.
A 31-year-old Nigerian staff member at Operation Barkhane in Niamey, the capital of Niger, told AP that the situation in Mali should affect the situation in Niger. AP does not use his name to protect his identity.
By Sylvie Corbet