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Why is the French army still in Mali?


A #French army soldier patrols a rural area during #Operation #Barkhane in northern #Burkina #Faso, #November 9, 2019

#Three #French soldiers from #Operation #Barkhane were killed in #Mali as #France seeks a way out for its engagement in the #Sahel. A desire that still clashes with the realities on the ground.

“#As soon as I can limit the level of engagement of my armies, I will do so,” #General #François #Lecointre, #Chief of #Staff of the #Armed #Forces, told #Le #Monde recently. The death of three #French soldiers on #Monday, #December 28 in the so-called “three borders” area in #Mali raised the overall toll of #French engagement in the #Sahel to forty-seven killed in operations #Serval (2013) and #Barkhane (2014) , while the #French government ostensibly seeks to disengage from the #Sahel.

“#We are not intended to stay forever”, admitted the #Minister of the #Armies #Florence #Parly before the #Senate #Foreign #Affairs #Committee last #June. #But “we do not have a vocation either to leave the #Sahel immediately, because our presence remains essential for the #Sahelians”. The security situation remains worrying in a region undermined by jihadist violence, inter-community conflicts and political instability. #On the purely military level, the results of #Operation #Barkhane, which mobilizes a total of 5,100 men and women, is however far from bad. #In 2020, the #French army dealt serious blows to jihadist groups. The #Emir of #Al-Qaeda in the #Islamic #Maghreb (AQIM), #Abdelmalek #Droukdel, for example, was shot dead in #June, followed by #Bah #Ag #Moussa, the head of the #Support #Group for #Islam and #Muslims (GSIM, also affiliated to #Al-Qaeda), in #November.


A #French soldier monitors an area during #Operation #Barkhane in northern #Burkina #Faso, #November 10, 2019

A slow and difficult transition

#But for #General #Lecointre, this is not enough. “#What we ask of a soldier is to allow the level of violence to be as low as possible, so that political solutions can be implemented without one finally falling into certain situations. of civil war, “”he told #France #Info in #December 2019. #For the #Chief of #Staff, if this device” is not complemented by political action in partnership between the governments of the countries we come to help and the whole of the international community, our action will be useless ”.

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The official strategy is therefore “for partner states to acquire the capacity to ensure their security independently”. #In 2017, #France thus made the bet of the creation of a regional military coalition, the joint force of the G5 #Sahel, which brings together 5,000 soldiers from #Burkina #Faso, #Mali, #Mauritania, #Niger and #Chad, and which must eventually take over from #Barkhane. #But the device is still struggling to convince and suffers from a lack of equipment and training according to a UN report published in #November 2019, which called for “increased support” from the international community that #Paris has the greatest difficulties to obtain. . #Efficiency also hampered by mismanagement or even corruption by local authorities.

#At the same time, #Task #Force #Takuba, a regrouping of #European forces aimed at carrying out special operations against jihadist groups and launched last #March, is also struggling to get underway and may not reach its full potential. operational in early 2021 as planned by the Élysée.


#French soldiers patrol the village of #Gorom #Gorom during #Operation #Barkhane in northern #Burkina #Faso, #November 14, 2019

#Security and political instability

The assessment of the strengthening of #Barkhane by sending 600 additional soldiers last #February must be drawn on #January 13 during the first anniversary of the #Pau summit, with a view to initiating a withdrawal of #French troops. #But while waiting for the development of a sufficiently effective local military force, #France is condemned to assume most of the operations in the region.

#Because the enemy does not withdraw. #More than 175 #Malian soldiers were killed by jihadist groups in 2020 and more than 200 had already fallen in action the year before. #Last #October, twelve civilians were murdered in the center of the country where the attacks are increasing. #In addition, there are intercommunal massacres, 160 civilians for example were assassinated in #March 2019 in #Ogossagou, near the border with #Burkina #Faso.

#Tensions worsened by the actions of the #Malian army, recently accused of war crimes by the UN. #Despite #Barkhane’s military victories, two-thirds of #Malian territory continue to escape the control of the central power, while ex-president #Ibrahim #Boubacar #Keïta was overthrown by the military on #August 18 and that power has failed. still not returned to civil society.

#Time for negotiations?

#Since the political solution is long overdue, should #France negotiate with the enemy? The question is very serious. #Sahel states are already doing this, and more and more openly. The release of #French hostage #Sophie Pétronin last #October was the result of discussions between the #Malian government and the GSIM. #In an interview with RFI and #France 24 on #December 3, #Moctar #Ouane, #Prime #Minister of #Mali’s transition, said he was considering discussions with #Iyad #Ag #Ghali, head of GSIM and #Amadou #Koufa, head of #Katiba #Macina (affiliated at GSIM), noting that “dialogue with terrorists is a will of the #Malians”.

#France had firmly declared its opposition to such an initiative, noting that jihadist groups had not signed the #Algiers peace accords in 2015, the basis for discussing the resolution of the conflict in #Mali. #But faced with the realities on the ground, #Paris’ position on this issue has nevertheless evolved in recent months.

The #French presidency recently declared that it was no longer opposed to negotiations between its #Sahelian partners and certain jihadist groups, nevertheless categorically refusing to discuss with the heads of #Al #Qaeda or the #Islamic #State. “With terrorists, we don’t argue. #We are fighting, ”#Emmanuel #Macron had decided to #Jeune #Afrique in #November. #For how much longer?

#Author: #Slate.fr – #Slate.fr



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##French #army ##Mali

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