“We will launch in the coming days a phase of exchanges with our African partners, our allies and regional organizations to jointly develop the status, format and missions of the current French military bases in the Sahel and in West Africa” , he said while presenting the new French defense strategy.
“This strategy will be finalized within 6 months (…). It is essential and it is one of the consequences that we draw from what we have experienced in recent years throughout the Sahel region”, he said. -he explains.
The French army left Mali in August, after nine years of presence, pushed by the junta in power which now works – even if it denies it – with the sulphurous Russian paramilitary group Wagner.
However, it remains in the region and continues to fight against jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State group, which are gradually extending their activities to the countries of the Gulf of Guinea.
The announcement of the end of Barkhane has no immediate consequence on the French military system in the Sahel, which includes around 3,000 soldiers in Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso, after having counted up to 5,500 men at the height of its deployment.
“Our interventions must be better limited in time. (…) We are not in fact intended to remain committed without time limit in external operations”, justified the Head of State.
“Our military support to African countries in the region will continue, but according to the new principles that we have defined with them,” he said. “It will be available at the level of each country according to the needs that will be expressed by our partners”.
Paris has to deal with an increasingly hostile African public opinion, in which the influence of rival powers, Moscow in the lead, is growing via social networks and official media.
The idea now is to continue to act, but in discretion. No new names have been given to the troops now deployed.
“Our soldiers remain covered, protected, supported, administered under conditions which are satisfactory” but the official announcement is “necessary locally”, explained Tuesday at the Elysée.
“In the field of perceptions, Barkhane continues to occupy a very important presence on social networks. We must clearly put an end to it in order to be able to switch to another logic,” said the same source.