French President Emmanuel Macron on 9 November announced the end of Operation Barkhane in the Sahel region of Africa since 2014 in the city of Toulon in southern France. Along with this, Macron, while introducing France’s new national strategy, said that there is a need to change France’s strategy in Africa and now the time has come to make a change.
During the announcement, President Emmanuel Macron said that France will formulate a new strategy in the next 6 months based on consultations with African allies. However, he said that French forces would remain in the area as part of a larger international mission. They will be there under a new arrangement to be decided with the host countries. He said that he would reduce the mobility of French troops in the Sahel according to the strategy prepared in the future. The next strategy will be based on closer cooperation with African forces.
What is Operation Barkhana
The French military has been active in several countries in Africa for the past decade for counter-terrorism missions. A large contingent of the French army is stationed in these countries and it takes action against terrorists in African countries through Operation Barkhane. Operation Barkhana was launched on 1 August 2014. It is an anti-insurgency campaign led by French forces against Islamist groups in the Sahel region of Africa. This contingent includes 5,000 commandos of the French Army, with its permanent headquarters in Chad’s capital N’Jamena.
The operation is led in collaboration with five countries, all of which are former French colonies spread across the Sahel: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. These countries are collectively called “G5 Sahel”.
Has France achieved its goal?
There were two objectives behind starting this French operation in the Sahel. First, to free Mali from terrorism and second, neutralize terrorist organizations in West Africa through counter-terrorism operations. In fact, in 2012, multinational terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda and Islamic State were increasing their activities in the entire Sahel region through their affiliates and the military government of Mali was not able to stop them.
Finally, at the behest of the military government of Mali, the Hollande government of France sent its army there in the year 2013. French forces initially intervened in Mali in early 2013 as part of Operation Serval, which successfully recaptured the northern half of the country from Islamist groups. At that time, Operation Barkhane aimed to follow up on that success and expanded the operations of the French army to a vast area of the Sahel region.
The purpose of this operation is to help the governments of the countries maintain control of their territory and prevent the region from becoming a safe haven for Islamist terrorist groups who are planning to attack France and Europe.
At that time, France had deployed about five thousand of its soldiers to eliminate the jihadists through Operation Barkhane in the Sahel region. Under this operation, many dreaded terrorists were expelled in 2014. Under this operation, in the year 2020, the main leaders of Al Qaeda, Abdel Malek Drukdel and Bah Ag Moussa were killed. The French army has killed a top commander of the dreaded terrorist organization ISIS in the African country of Niger in the year 2021. This commander was involved in the killings and massacres of hundreds of people at the local level.
saw a series of failures
However, Operation Barkhane saw a series of failures. This operation was started with the aim of countering terrorism in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Chad. But the past decade has seen the growth of new groups of terrorist organizations, including the Islamic State, in these regions.
According to the Armed Conflict Location and Incident Data Project (ACLED), violence killed 5,450 people in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger in the first half of 2022, an increase from the previous year. According to The Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 1,180 people died in Islamic violence in these areas in the year 2020, which increased to 2.005 incidents in 2021.
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