France does not intend to reduce “immediately” the strength of its anti-jihadist operation Barkhane in the Sahel, which currently mobilizes 5,100 soldiers, President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday, while paving the way for a gradual decline in the presence. French military.
“No doubt significant changes will be made to our military system in the Sahel in due course, but they will not take place immediately,” he said at a press conference in Paris at the end of the meeting. G5 Sahel summit in N’Djamena in which he participated by videoconference.
“To withdraw men en masse would be a mistake”
“It would be paradoxical to weaken our system at a time when we have a political and military alignment favorable to the achievement of our objectives”, he argued, while Paris was still considering a few weeks ago of start a withdrawal at the beginning of the year by recalling the 600 soldiers sent to reinforce the Sahel a year ago.
“Massively removing men, which is a pattern I have studied, would be a mistake,” he added. But “in the long term and beyond the summer, I would like us to work with our partners for an evolution of our presence”, uninterrupted for eight years in the Sahel, he insisted.
To reduce its footprint, Paris is counting in particular on “Sahelization”, that is to say the passage of the baton to the national armies, and the “internationalization” of the effort to train these regional forces and accompany them in combat, in particular through the grouping of European special forces Takuba, which today brings together a few hundred men including French, Estonians, Czechs and Swedes.
“Focus on the fight against terrorism”
“Our desire is to get out of an external operation logic to focus on the strict fight against terrorism, that is to say, lighter projection forces with a reinforced Takuba”, explained the French president.
“Our objective is to reach 2,000 men on Takuba, with a French pillar of around 500 men, over time, and cooperation with the armies of the region, with several holdings but each time in support, with soldiers who would be there over time alongside the Sahelian soldiers, which is a different logic from that of the opex ”(external operations).
“We will not do it right away, but this is how I project myself in the long term”, he said.
A new meeting of the heads of state of the G5 Sahel will take place in the spring and a summit “before the summer”, specified Mr. Macron.
Source: A la Une – Le Progrès | Le Progrès by www.leprogres.fr.
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