French military operation battling Islamist militants in the Sahel region of West Africa would come to an end says President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday.
Operation Barkhane would be replaced by ” an international alliance, with all our partners, strictly limited to the fight against terrorism,” Macron said
“The time has come to begin a deep transformation of our military presence in the Sahel,” Macron told a news conference.
Operation Barkhane operation, which has some 5 100 soldiers across the region has apparently failed to put an end in security turmoil especially in Mali, and Paris has grown frustrated with it.
The move by Macron is seen as a response to Malian army Colonel Assimi Goita taking power following his overthrow of a second president in nine months in what France described as a “coup within a coup.”
France also temporarily suspended joint operations between French and Malian troops on 3 June.
The new force structure in the region will see French special forces numbering about several hundred working with other European countries in the Takuba Task Force and the Malian and Nigerian armies.
In 2019, President Macron had said that France would reassess and restructure its Barkhane force by the end of the year. The troops drawdown will make France focus on its Special Operations Task Force “Takuba” commitments.
Also Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defense Minister Florence Parly both visited Mali in November 2020 to assess troops presence in the Sahel region. “We are getting close to the end of the year, a natural point to assess our progress,” Parly said at the time.
France severely criticized the move to by Mali’s officials to negotiate with the terrorists, saying that France could not continue to send soldiers to their deaths if Sahel governments negotiated with the very people who killed them.
Since 2013, some 55 French soldiers have been killed in the region trying to drive back al-Qaeda-linked groups that had seized cities and towns in northern Mali a year earlier.
French forces already deployed in the region would now work as part of training operations with international missions.
Operation Barkhane was named after a crescent-shaped dune in the Sahara desert, and succeeded Operation Serval and Operation Epervier.