July 28, 2021

The reorganization of the “Barkhane” operation, a clever balancing act

A month after having registered it in the defense council, the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, officially presented, on Friday July 9, the broad outlines of the plan for the withdrawal of some 5,100 French soldiers from operation “Barkhane”, deployed in the Sahel since 2014. This presentation took place on the sidelines of a summit by videoconference with the G5 Sahel, this coalition bringing together the countries most currently exposed to the jihadist threat: Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Mauritania and Chad.

This reorganization of “Barkhane” should start “From the next few weeks”, specified the Head of State, indicating that it would begin with the closure of the bases located in the north of Mali, in Kidal, Tessalit and Timbuktu, between the end of 2021 and the beginning of the year 2022. A redeployment which should “Term” lead to downsizing by at least 40% to bring them back to around 3,000 to 2,500 men, Macron added, confirming figures that had been circulating for several weeks.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Risks and perils of the end of “Barkhane” in the Sahel

“We are not intended to stay in the Sahel”, in particular justified the president. A statement which in fact came to readjust the political framework on that of the military reality in force for some time: the abandonment of a whole part of Mali to concentrate the efforts in the last zone of the country considered key to hope to stop the progression. jihadist groups to the south and more broadly to the Gulf of Guinea, where many more economic interests are located than in Mali. Or the famous “three borders” area, straddling Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali.

Illustration of the Macronian “at the same time”

While Mali continues to sink into the crisis, the Head of State also announced the transfer to Niamey, Niger – where “Barkhane” already has a base – of the operational command of the “task force” Takuba . This coalition of European special forces today mainly provides combat support for the Malian armed forces. One illustration among many of the ” at the same time “ Macronian declined to the Sahelian environment and the clever balancing act which promises to be for the staffs as for the diplomats.

At this stage, the departure from northern Mali is undoubtedly the least complicated part for Paris to manage. Even if the transport of troops is still delicate due to security risks, in practice, few French people remained deployed in Kidal, Tessalit and Timbuktu.

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