France halts operation in the Sahel
France has announced the end of its Barkhane operation in the Sahel, with an official statement to be made by President Emmanuel Macron today, November 9, 2022.
What’s Barkhane operation?
The Barkhane operation is the French government’s anti-jihadist military engagement in the Sahel. The announcement, by the Elysee Palace, comes about three months after the withdrawal of French soldiers from Mali. At its peak, the Barkhane operation had up to 5,500 soldiers working with various national security forces in the region, against jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda or the Islamic State group.
Has the region been rid of the jihadists?
Not yet. The French were forced out of Mali following the Malian junta’s capture of power in 2020. Although it denies it, the junta has been working with the Russian paramilitary group, Wagner, leading to the final withdrawal of the French army in mid-August, after nine years of operating there. “In the field of perceptions, Barkhane continues to occupy a very important presence on social networks. It is necessary to put a clear end to it in order to switch to another logic”, the Elysee Palace said in the announcement.
However, the end of the Barkhane operation will have no impact on the French military presence in the Sahel, with about 3,000 French troops still deployed in Burkina Faso, Chad, and Niger. The purpose of calling off the Barkhane operation, according to the Elysee Palace, is “to reduce the exposure and visibility of our military forces in Africa, to focus on cooperation and support, mainly in terms of equipment, training, intelligence, and operational partnership when the countries wish it”.