France to pull over 2,000 troops from Africa’s Sahel region by next year
French President Macron announced last month Operation Barkhane, a seven-year campaign fighting militants linked to Al Qaeda and Daesh in the Sahel, will formally end.
Feench President Emmanuel Macron has said that France would start closing its bases in northern Mali before the end of the year, part of a drawdown of French troops fighting militants in the Sahel.
“The shutdowns of these sections will start in the second half of 2021 and be completed by early 2022,” Macron said on Friday during a press conference following summit talks with the leaders of five West African nations.
France would reduce its force to 2,500 to 3,000 troops over the long term and focus on special regional forces instead, he said.
Macron announced last month that he would start removing much of the 5,100-member Barkhane force in the Sahel after eight years of helping local forces stave off the threat from rebels linked to Al Qaeda and Daesh.
Macron on Friday said this was made possible by in part by the changing nature of the threat as well as the capabilities of local armies and support from other European nations.
He insisted that France would remain a long-term partner for the G5 countries of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania and Niger.
Reconfiguring military presence
“Our enemies have abandoned their territorial ambitions in favour of spreading their threat not only across the Sahel, but across all of West Africa,” Macron said at a press conference with Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum.
“Unfortunately this offensive implies increased pressure on all the Gulf of Guinea countries, which is already a reality,” he said.
Analysts have warned that the militant threat in the five Sahel countries could lead to increased terror threats in countries including the Ivory Coast or Benin.
“We are going to reorganise ourselves in line with this need to stop this spread to the south, and it will lead to a reduction of our military footprint in the north,” Macron said.