Macron announces Sahel troop drawdown, calls for new force
- France’s future presence will be as part of the Takuba international task force in the Sahel in which ‘hundreds’ of French soldiers will form the ‘backbone’
- It will mean the closure of French bases and the use of special forces who will be focused on anti-terror operations and military training
PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday announced a major drawdown of France’s military presence in the Sahel and the end of the existing Barkhane operation.
“The time has come: Our commitment in the Sahel will not continue in the same way,” Macron told a press conference.
“We will undertake a profound transformation of our military presence in the Sahel,” he added. “The framework will be made clear in the weeks to come.”
He said that he saw France’s future presence as being part of the so-called Takuba international task force in the Sahel in which “hundreds” of French soldiers would form the “backbone.”
It would mean the closure of French bases and the use of special forces who would be focused on anti-terror operations and military training, he added.
France currently has 5,100 troops in the arid and volatile Sahel region, which stretches across Africa south of the Sahara desert and spans half a dozen countries.
The Barkhane operation dates back to an initial deployment undertaken from January 2013 as Paris intervened to stop the advance of extremists in Mali.
Macron said the French drawdown had been decided because the “longstanding presence of France... cannot be a substitute for political stability.”
For years Macron has tried to get Western allies to help shoulder the burden of an anti-terror fight in the Sahel where France, the former colonial power in the region, is the lead foreign presence.
The killing in April of the veteran leader of Chad, a close Paris ally, and a coup in Mali last month have also underlined the threat posed by continued political instability in the region.