Macron Announces Sahel Troop Drawdown, Calls For New Force
Faizan Hashmi 12 days ago Fri 11th June 2021 | 01:00 AM
Paris, (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 11th Jun, 2021 ) :President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday announced a major drawdown of France's military presence in the Sahel where forces have been battling insurgents for nearly a decade.
At a news conference, Macron said the existing Barkhane operation would end, with France's presence becoming part of the so-called Takuba international task force in which "hundreds" of French soldiers would form the "backbone".
France currently has 5,100 troops in the arid and volatile Sahel region, which stretches across Africa under the Sahara desert and spans half a dozen countries.
"The time has come: Our commitment in the Sahel will not continue in the same way," Macron said. "We will undertake a profound transformation of our military presence in the Sahel." Details of the framework would be given in coming weeks, he said.
For years Macron has tried to get Western allies to help shoulder the burden of an anti-terror fight that aims to stop Islamist extremists from exploiting anger over poverty and ineffective governments.
- 'Cannot be substitute' - The drawdown would mean the closure of French bases and the use of special forces who would be focused on anti-terror operations and military training, Macron said.
The Takuba operation, which is to take over from Barkhane, for now consists of around 600 European special forces based in Mali, half of whom are French, with 140 Swedes and several dozen Estonians and Czechs also taking part.
Macron has failed to secure significant contributions from larger European allies.
Macron said the French drawdown had been decided because the "longstanding presence of France... cannot be a substitute for political stability".
"I don't think that we can substitute ourselves for a sovereign people in order to build their place for them," Macron said.
Despite some successes for France's Barkhane force including last year's killing of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) leader Abdelmalek Droukdel, insurgents have continued to carry out deadly attacks.
In the Sahel region itself the presence of French forces is also rejected by some politicians and locals as a colonial throwback.