France is continuing its project to reduce its military presence in the Sahel. The country will begin to close bases in northern Mali in “Second half of the year 2021”French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday July 9 at a summit of G5 Sahel countries.
The closure of the French rights-of-way of Kidal, Tessalit and Timbuktu will be “Completed by the start of 2022”, said Mr. Macron during a joint press conference in Paris with the new Nigerien president Mohamed Bazoum, whose country belongs to the G5 Sahel (with Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad).
Ultimately, France will maintain “Between 2,500 to 3,000” men in the region, against 5,100 today, said the President of the Republic. “This transformation”, which will involve the closure of military bases in northern Mali, “Responds to the need to adapt to the new posture of terrorist groups and to support the assumption of responsibility by the countries of the region”, did he declare.
Continue the fight against Al-Qaida and ISIS
“Our adversaries have today abandoned a territorial ambition in favor of a project to disseminate the threat [non] no longer only at the level of the Sahel, but at the level of the whole of West Africa “, argued the French head of state, setting out the path until the end of the anti-jihadist operation “Barkhane”.
Mr. Macron mentioned “The pressure exerted by terrorist groups in the areas located on the border between Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire”. “This offensive unfortunately foreshadows increased pressure on all the countries of the Gulf of Guinea, which is already a reality”, he stressed.
From now on, the French military presence in the Sahel will revolve around “Two missions”, he detailed: “The neutralization and disorganization of the high command of the two enemy organizations”, Al-Qaida and the Islamic State (IS) group, as well as “Support for the rise of the armies of the region”.
As part of this re-articulation of the French system, the military hold of Niamey, which hosts French fighter planes and drones, will be “Muscular”, in the words of Mr. Macron. In parallel, “Our partners will also benefit from the maintenance of certain essential capacities in Mali – health, aero-mobility, rapid reaction force”, and “Chad”, where is currently the HQ of the operation “Barkhane” called to disappear, “Will finally remain a key element of our system, with the maintenance of a significant air and land presence”, added President Macron.