Home WORLD AFRICA The French army leaves Mali in opprobrium

The French army leaves Mali in opprobrium

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h [heure de Paris], the last detachment of the Barkhane force present on Malian soil has crossed the border between Mali and Niger. It came from the Gao desert operational platform, transferred to the Malian armed forces since this morning”,”text”:”This day, at 1 p.m. [heure de Paris], the last detachment of the Barkhane force present on Malian soil has crossed the border between Mali and Niger. It came from the Gao desert operational platform, transferred to the Malian armed forces since this morning”}}”>Today, at 1 p.m. [heure de Paris], the last detachment of the Barkhane force present on Malian soil has crossed the border between Mali and Niger. It came from the Gao desert operational platform, transferred to the Malian armed forces since this morning.announced the General Staff, which welcomes the fact that this major logistical military challenge have been orderly and safe collection.

This withdrawal, ordered on February 17 by President Emmanuel Macron, puts an end to nearly a decade of French military intervention in Mali, probably the last commitment of this magnitude for a long time.

The Head of State hailed in a press release the commitment of the French soldiers who for nine years have fought armed terrorist groups in the Sahel and of which 59 have paid the price with their lives.

Their sacrifice obliges us and reminds us that our soldiers have, during these years, preserved the unity of Mali, prevented the constitution of a territorial caliphate and fought against the terrorist groups which strike the local populations and threaten Europe. »

A quote from Emmanuel Macron, President of France

Their effectiveness during all these years and until recent days has been demonstrated by the neutralization of most of the highest officials in the hierarchy of Sahelian terrorist groupshe adds.

In an implicit criticism of the Malian authorities resulting from two coups d’etat, he reaffirms his desire to continue this commitment alongside all the States that choose to fight terrorism and respect stability and coexistence between communities in west Africa.

Soldiers in uniform in a street, where we also see passers-by.

French soldiers from the Barkhane force patrol the streets of Timbuktu, northern Mali in December 2021.

Photo: dpa via getty images / THOMAS COEX

Operation Serval launched in January 2013 against jihadist groups who had conquered the north of the country and threatened to descend on Bamako, the capital, was succeeded in August 2014 by Barkhane, targeting jihadists scattered in the countries of the Sahelo-Saharan strip. , which mobilized up to 5,500 men in the field in 2020.

This military presence in the Sahel will be halved by the end of the year, to around 2,500 soldiers. Niger has accepted the maintenance of an air base in Niamey and the support of 250 soldiers for its military operations on the Malian border.

Chad will continue to host a French hold in N’Djamena, and France hopes to retain a contingent of special forces in Ouagadougou, the Burkinabé capital. Paris is discussing with other West African countries to offer its support, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea.

But the French military interventions will evolve towards less posed and less exposed devicessaid Emmanuel Macron on July 13.

Demonstrators waving flags and placards, including one hostile to France.

Anti-French demonstration in the capital of Mali, Bamako, in February 2022.

Photo: AFP

This includes avoiding the crystallization among the populations of hostility against the former colonial power, fueled by the persistence of insecurity and stoked, according to Paris, by deliberate disinformation campaigns on social networks.

This withdrawal balances nearly a year of increasingly bitter relations between Paris and the colonels in power in Bamako since the putsch against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta in August 2020.

The colonels, who turned to Russia – even going so far as to secure the services of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, according to Paris and the UN – broke defense agreements with Paris and its European partners in May, after filibustering for months against Barkhane.

Bamako, which denies having appealed to Wagner, reproached the French president in July for a neocolonial postureaccording to the expression of the government spokesman, Colonel Abdoulaye Maïga, accusing him of stirring up ethnic hatred through his criticism of the Malian army.

Ambush

The Al-Qaeda-affiliated Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM) claimed to have killed four paramilitaries from the Russian private security group Wagner in an ambush in central Mali.

The information was confirmed to AFP by two local elected officials and a hospital source, while a senior Malian army official in the center of the country refused to confirm or deny it.

He was reacting to remarks by Mr. Macron for whom the choices made by the Malian junta today and its de facto complicity with the Wagner militia are particularly ineffective in the fight against terrorism, which is no longer their objective.

Abdoulaye Diop shakes hands with Sergei Lavrov.

Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop traveled to Moscow last May, where he was received by his counterpart Sergei Lavrov. In July, the Russian Foreign Minister toured several African countries.

Photo: AP/Yuri Kadobnov

In Mali, France found itself caught, according to the experts, between a political logic which dictated that it leave as soon as possible and a logic of military efficiency which encouraged it, on the contrary, to stay until local armies can take over.

We now know from Afghanistan that an external operation with a lot of Western forces on the ground cannot last forever.explained to AFP, a few months ago, Alain Antil, specialist in the Sahel at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), who underlined limits of the big operations, with a lot of men, a lot of presence on the ground and a lot of political visibility.

If tomorrow we switch to devices [avec] more combat support from certain battalions of national armies, special forces work, air support, France’s political exposure will be much less, with an efficiency that will always be thereaccording to him.

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