President Macron wants to “deeply transform” the French military presence in the Sahel. He explained this on Thursday during a press conference. Specifically, this means a reduction of French personnel in the region and the “end of Operation Barkhane as an external operation”, in favor of an international alliance associating states in the region and Europeans. Explanations.
“The form of our presence” in the Sahel “no longer fits the reality of the war,” President Macron declared. In concrete terms, the announcement on Thursday night does not mean that France will withdraw from the region but that it will reduce its workforce.
Emmanuel Macron spoke of “several hundred soldiers” against more than 5,000 today. He also mentioned the closure of certain bases in the French army without specifying which ones. But it is above all the framework of this French presence that will be developed. The idea is to focus exclusively on the fight against terrorism and no longer secure large areas where the states concerned are struggling to regain a foothold.
And to do so within an international alliance. An alliance structured around European force Takouba, which was launched in March 2020, and is “called to increase”, says Emmanuel Macron. France will remain the backbone of this force with which other African and international armies will be associated.
► Listen too : Mali, Central African Republic: is France withdrawing? (Decryption)
Why are you announcing such changes today? “There is a phenomenon of wear and tear,” the president said, and “a general feeling that we are losing the thread of what we are here for.” A decision also justified, and above all, the election of some Sahelian leaders. “I am obliged to note that in several states in the region there has been no resumption of decision-making to bring the state and the administration back to the areas liberated from terrorism,” Emmanuel Macron explained before adding: to replace the States forever “.
France is not meant to stay in the Sahel forever by its strength – it has been known from the beginning – and it is clearly the Africans who are responsible for securing African countries.
Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Foreign Minister
In the company of the French head of state, one of his relatives decodes: “A military operation that lasts, whether we like it or not, is responsible for the failures of the states in the region over which we have no control. For which we take responsibility.” .
If these messages seemed to surprise everyone, we at the Elysee Palace are sure that everything said on Thursday had been clearly exposed at the beginning of the year by Emmanuel Macron to his Sahelian counterparts. It should be noted that these announcements take place in a specific context in France: the presidential election will take place in ten months. However, this Barkhane operation seemed increasingly unpopular in France, according to a survey published earlier this year.
But at this stage there is no more exact timing. This announcement was made during a press conference devoted to various topics. This new unit should be on the menu for the next European Council, scheduled for 24 June.
► To read also: Emmanuel Macron announces “end of Operation Barkhane as an external operation”