On Tuesday morning, French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to increase France’s efforts to eradicate terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State from the countries of the Sahel.
The leaders of the G5 Sahel — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger — are attending a two-day summit in the Chadian capital N’Djamena. French President Macron is attending by videolink due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
President Macron was speaking to the leaders of the G5 Sahel, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger and urged them to step up their own anti-terror efforts and to restore government control and services in areas where jihadist fighters are operating.
Meanwhile, Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno said on Twitter during the two-day summit that Chad’s armed forces, widely considered to be the best in the region, will send 1,200 troops to the tri-border area between Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso. Last year, Chad had agreed to send a battalion of troops to the area.
“The socio-economic situation in our countries isn’t gleaming… we’re appealing urgently to all our partners to give us the additional resources they promised,” Deby said, adding that “debt cancellation” is a priority for regional governments.
The violence in the region began in Mali during a Taureg separatist uprising in 2012. France came to the aid of its former colony in 2013, and initial French troop deployment pushed the insurgents nearly out of the country. But the Taureg uprising was swallowed up by Islamist insurgents from al-Qaeda and later the Islamic State.
France forced the insurgents out of Mali and into the neighboring countries of Burkina Faso and Niger. But violence across the Sahel has continued and shows no signs of abating. In fact, Malian officials announced that two Malian soldiers were killed in a roadside IED bombing incident as the summit began.
Those two deaths raised this year’s total of French, UN, and Malian troop casualties to 29. The French have lost 50 troops in combat since their deployment in the region began.
President Macron has hinted that France may cut the number of troops in the country. But, he said on Tuesday that there will be
“no immediate withdrawal” and a mass redeployment of troops “would be a mistake.” He has also implied that he will look to the U.S. for further support.
In 2020, France activated Special Operations Task Force Takuba in the Sahel which has garnered very good support from European countries. Nevertheless, the French are calling for the greater participation of other EU countries in the fight.
It is hoped that Takuba will take on the onus of the training requirements of the 5,000-man joint Task Force Barkhane which has been stuck in neutral due to a lack of funds and proper equipment, and poor training.
Further, President Macron is dealing with a French population that is growing increasingly tired of the fighting in the Sahel. At least 51 percent of the French population no longer supports the military intervention in the Sahel, according to a poll conducted in January by the French Institute of Public Opinion (IFOP).