Takuba, mounted with great difficulty by the former Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly to share with Europeans the burden of the fight against the jihadists in the Sahel, succumbed to two coups in Mali in August 2020 and May 2021, in the brutal deterioration of Franco-Malian relations and then the departure this year of the French anti-jihadist force Barkhane.

“The reorganization of the French military system in the Sahel (…) led to the end of the operations of (…) Takuba in Mali from June 30”, indicated General Pascal Ianni, spokesperson for the French general staff.

Barkhane and Takuba testify to what “Europeans are capable of accomplishing together in complex security environments”, he continued, praising “the lessons” of this operational experience.

Takuba, symbol of European defense dear to French President Emmanuel Macron, ended up bringing together a dozen European countries, and up to 800 to 900 elite soldiers.

They were responsible for helping the Malian forces to gain autonomy and allowing them to regain a foothold in the territories abandoned by the state, in the face of jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State (IS) group.

– “Political game” –

Often skeptical at the start, having to obtain the agreement of their respective parliaments, nine European countries ended up accepting the project (Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden).

The “full operational capacity” of Takuba – which means “Saber” in the Tamasheq language – had been decreed at the beginning of April 2021. It will have lasted less than a year: the joint operations have in fact ceased since last February.

“In addition to sharing an assessment of the situation, common procedures and a brotherhood of arms have been forged”, welcomed the French staff.

But Takuba will not have resisted the tensions with Bamako. In January, the junta had asked Denmark to withdraw its troops which had just arrived but had been deployed “without its consent”. Copenhagen had denounced “a dirty political game”.

By breaking with Paris, the Bamako junta also broke with its allies. She is accused, even if she denies it, of having called on the private company of Russian mercenaries Wagner, accused of multiple human rights violations and other trafficking in the Middle East and Africa.

The sign of a major geopolitical reorientation of Mali, which intensifies the French downgrading in the region and puts a question mark in front of the future of the commitment of Europeans in the anti-jihadist fight in the Sahel.

– Reconfiguration – 

For example, the Swedish force had already decided not to extend its special forces beyond their initial mandate in June. Stockholm is also unlikely to relocate troops out of Mali, even if exchanges with France officially continue.

And if Stockholm retains 200 men within Minusma, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, it will leave a year earlier than planned, in the first half of 2023. And today, it is the entire international system in the wavering region.

The French army will have left Mali by the end of August after nine years of engagement. And the Minusma, extended for a year, will be deprived of air support. “The ongoing military reconfiguration in the region could jeopardize past counter-terrorism efforts,” UN experts said in a document obtained by AFP.

“Our transformation towards a partnership model was embodied in Mali by Takuba. But the operation was hit in full ramp-up”, admitted to AFP General Hervé Pierre, who supervises from Niamey the partnerships between French armies and West Africans. But “the spirit of Takuba will endure in the combat partnership with the Nigeriens, in an even more balanced relationship”.

In May, Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum called on French and Europeans to “take more risks and not be haunted by the losses” in the Sahel.

He demanded that their forces be deployed “with substantial air capabilities, effective rules of engagement, sacrifices, financial means, with many more helicopters, bombs”.

“Discussions are underway” between Paris and several countries in the region on their needs in terms of military assistance, confirmed General Ianni, as the jihadist threat extends towards the Gulf of Guinea.