Lhe President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, announced Thursday a “profound transformation” of the French military presence in the Sahel and the establishment of an international anti-jihadist alliance in the region. “The time has come,” said Emmanuel Macron about an announcement that has been awaited for several weeks: France will initiate “a profound transformation” of its military presence in the Sahel.
This transformation will notably involve the closure of French army bases. It is therefore the “end of Operation Barkhane as an external operation” replaced by the implementation “of an international alliance associating the States of the region”. The French president, however, did not give a date or detail the staff reductions, explaining that he will communicate again on the subject at the end of the month.
Reasons for withdrawal
“I do not think that we can replace a sovereign people to build its property in place of itself,” said Emmanuel Macron. Eight years after the arrival of France in Mali, the observation of the French president was rather bitter Thursday. For the Head of State, it is impossible to “replace the return of the State and State services, political stability and the choice of sovereign States”.
“We cannot secure areas which fall back into anomie because the States decide not to take their responsibilities, it is impossible, or else it is an endless job”, he criticized. Paris is currently deploying some 5,100 troops against jihadists affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) group and al-Qaeda, to support the weakened armies of the Sahel states who are struggling to fight them alone.
Several hundred French soldiers will still be mobilized
The end of Barkhane does not mean France’s disengagement from the fight against terrorism in the Sahel. The emphasis will be on “special forces structured around Operation Takuba,” said the president, recalling that “several hundred French soldiers” would still be mobilized.
The Takuba force is a group of European special forces initiated by France which today brings together 600 men in Mali, half of them French, as well as a few dozen Estonians and Czechs and nearly 140 Swedes. Italy has pledged up to 200 soldiers, Denmark a hundred and several other countries, including Greece, Hungary and Serbia, have expressed their interest.
In addition, France will maintain “a pillar” of “cooperation with partner armies” in the Sahel.
No negotiations with the jihadists
Emmanuel Macron also took advantage of this press conference to send several messages to Mali, with which France announced the freezing of its joint military operations after a putsch on May 24. In particular, he gave a clear condition for the resumption of these operations: the “clear” commitment of the transitional authorities not to dialogue with the jihadists.
“We cannot suffer from ambiguity. We cannot conduct joint operations with powers that decide to discuss with groups that, alongside that, shoot our children. No dialogue and compromise, ”he insisted.
Assimi Goïta, “a military putschist”
Emmanuel Macron also deplored “bad case law for Africans themselves” from the Economic Community of West African States, which recognized Colonel Assimi Goïta as president of the transition in Mali. Qualifying this decision as an “error” and fearing a “precedent”, he designated Assimi Goïta as “a military putschist”.
The West African states mission dispatched to Mali after the second military coup was “reassured” by the commitments made by the new president, Colonel Assimi Goïta, regarding a return of civilians to power in early 2022.
READ ALSOColonel Assimi Goïta at the helm of Mali
This is Assimi Goïta’s second coup in nine months. During the first putsch last August, however, he did not take up the post of president, leaving it to a civilian, Bah N’Daw.