(000228.79-E000157.73NRLOSUC20V)[Hey, remember us Whites in Africa? Always keen to assist the Western world? Now we don't have a state and no military power. Miss us yet? Jan]
French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday said that there was no plan for ‘immediate reduction’ of the French troops in Africa’s Sahel, following a G5 summit with leaders of five African allies — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. Reiterating, that any changes in the French military presence in the West African region will heavily depend on other European countries’ military cooperation, France’ President said, there was ‘increased willingness’ among EU nations to send army personnel to Franco-Estonian elite unit, Takuba Task Force to tackle jihadi insurgency. Macron’s remarks came in reference to Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and Greece’s commitment last year to send elite special forces units to Mali, in the wake of United States upping US Army Africa commander billet in Sahel, while France stationed its ‘strong’ 5,100 contingents since 2014.
Despite his calls of “adjusting” France’s military presence in African region, after 2 French soldiers from the second regiment of hussars of Haguenau were killed in Mali in an IED attack by Al-Qaeda, France President noted Tuesday, that “no significant changes will be made to French military system in Sahel.” At a state presser, the French leader following the virtual summit with G5 Sahel allies clarified that “changes will take place in due course, but they will not take place immediately.” France has more than 5,000 troops deployed in West Africa operating under Barkhane force to fight Islamic extremists that have regrouped in northern Mali, of which, 50 French soldiers have laid down lives in covert operations against terrorism, including 3 more deaths of French soldiers, last month.
France’s Barkhane counterterrorism force has conducted several operations against Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) group in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, and has singularly weakened the terror group during its 8 years of Mali campaign, Barkhane commander General Marc Conruyt told reporters. French soldiers neutralized Al-Qaeda leader Abdelmalek Droukdel, in the Islamic Maghreb region, and killed the operative of the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM). Per estimates by Council on Foreign Relations, Barkhane’s operations incurred France $1.1 billion in 2020, and the French Ministry of Defense planned to ‘gradually’ pull out troops in February 2021 in an effort to garner EU military cooperation.
[A ceremony was held to pay homage to two soldiers killed in Mali by an improvised explosive device that hit their armoured vehicle. Credit: AP]
Germany ‘twice’ refused to send troops
As Macron vouches for more European forces to conjointly adjust its military efforts against Islamist militias in the region, Pentagon, last month announced the possible withdrawal of American troops to address Chinese military threats in the Pacific, nearly two decades after its support with French troops in counter-terrorism operations. In response, France warned the US against pulling troops out of West Africa. French Defense Minister Florence Parly, emphasized that the US military presence was ‘critical’ in Sahel, and its withdrawal would significantly limit terrorist operations.
While French President on Tuesday told reporters that it would be “paradoxical” to weaken France’s military alignment in Sahel, eyeing EU nations’ military participation to draft an exit strategy from the conflict-ridden region, Germany, staunch in its stance, twice refused to send more troops under UN’s MINUSMA mission and the EU’s training mission (EUTM) in Mali. “German troops’ mandate has not yet been extended to include combat operations in the Sahel," German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told the EU parliament.