August 5, 2021

Risks and perils of the end of “Barkhane” in the Sahel

After months of procrastination, the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, finally announced, Thursday, June 10 at the end of the afternoon, the end of the operation “Barkhane” for which 5,100 French soldiers have been deployed in the Sahel since. 2014. An announcement made during a press conference at the Elysee Palace, in the perspective of an important international sequence, going from the G7 to the United Kingdom from 11 to 13 June, to the NATO summit on June 14, in Brussels. A decision that reshuffles the cards in the Sahel less than a year before the presidential election, against a backdrop of disenchantment of French opinion with regard to the engagement of armies in the area.

Read also End of operation “Barkhane”, vaccine donations, online hatred: the key points of Emmanuel Macron’s press conference

“The continuation of our commitment in the Sahel will not be done on a constant basis (…). It will involve (…) the end of Operation Barkhane “, announced the head of state. “The lasting presence, in the context of foreign operations, of France cannot replace (…), political stability, at the choice of sovereign states ”, justified Mr. Macron, alluding to the chronic instability of Mali, where two coups d’état have taken place in nine months. “We cannot secure regions that are falling back into anomie because states decide not to take their responsibilities. It’s impossible, or else it’s endless work ”, he added. “The device changes, not the objective”, reacted for his part, Thursday evening, the Minister of the Armies, Florence Parly, on Twitter.

Disengagement in three main stages

A week after having brutally suspended, on June 3, bilateral military cooperation with Mali, the President of the Republic has therefore driven the point home. But he sent them back “Terms” and the timing of this new turnaround, at the end of June. A deadline that coincides with a long-planned stage summit on “Barkhane”, on the model of that of N’Djamena, in Chad, in February. This summit could take place in Brussels, in particular with the European partners from Paris to Mali. The ambition is to lead by then « consultations » with them, as well as with the United States, and all the Sahelian States.

It was during a restricted defense council, Wednesday, June 9, that the decision to put an end to “Barkhane” as such was taken. According to our information, several options were on the table. One of them, considered the toughest, planned to withdraw all the troops within a year. A scenario studied in principle, but quickly discarded. The president finally opted for a reorganization on which the armies had been plowing for a long time, and on which they had even started to communicate at the end of 2020, before everything was canceled at the last minute by Mr. Macron.

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