French President Emmanuel Macron announced Friday that France will close three military bases in the Sahel region of northern Mali by 2022 and withdraw about half of the troops from the country. This is part of the reconfiguration of its military engagement in Africa as the Islamist jihadist threat moves farther south. 

France has been heavily involved in the Sahel for the past eight years through Operation Barkhane. It helps its former colony fight al-Qaeda- and Islamic State-linked jihadist insurgencies in the semi-arid region Sahel region. 

Macron made the announcements during a news conference with Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum at the end of a G5 Sahel summit in Paris. The other leaders of the G5 Sahel attended the conference virtually. 

“Our enemies have abandoned their territorial ambitions in favor of spreading their threat not only across the Sahel but across all of West Africa,” Macron said after the video summit.

As Terrorist Threats Change, France Is Adjusting its Approach in the Sahel
French troops during Operation Barkhane in Mali. (File photo)

“Unfortunately this offensive implies increased pressure on all the Gulf of Guinea countries, which is already a reality,” he addded.

“We are going to reorganize 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.

France Will Remain a Player in the Sahel Despite Drawdown

However, France will remain a long-term partner for the G5 countries, Macron insisted. He specified that between 2,500 to 3,000 of the current 5.100 troops will remain in the region.

“But in no way are we going to take over the responsibilities and sovereignty of nations in the region, to fulfill their missions for restoring security and government services to their populations,” Macron specified.