France's Emmanuel Macron hints at troop reduction in Sahel
French president said successes on the ground against extremists meant efforts could be adjusted
President Emmanuel Macron suggested some French soldiers will soon be withdrawn from the Sahel region in Africa after successes on the ground against extremists and greater support from Europe.
France has 5,100 troops currently across the Sahel after sending an additional 600 soldiers last year as part of Operation Barkhane, which seeks to tackle the threat from militant groups including those related to ISIS and Al Qaeda.
"The temporary reinforcements that I decided to deploy have enabled the Barkhane force to put in great difficulty terrorist groups, which find themselves cornered and reduced to cowardly acts," said the French president during his annual address to France's armed forces.
About 600 extra soldiers were deployed early last year to the region to support efforts.
France has secured some European help with soldiers from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Sweden and the UK deployed to the region.
It also integrated the forces the G5 Sahel countries – Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania – into a more streamlined structure to increase co-operation.
Since 2013, more than 50 French soldiers have been killed in the region.
It launched Operation Serval in early 2013 to counter the spread of militants who had seized northern Mali and moving towards the centre of the country.
It was replaced by Operation Barkhane in the summer of 2014 as part of a wider effort to stabilise the Sahel.
French special forces killed Al Qaeda’s North Africa chief Abdelmalek Droukdel last summer, but the threat level remains extremely high.
The UN's 13-000 strong stabilisation operation MINSUMA has suffered the highest fatalities of any peacekeeping mission in the world. More than 260 of its personnel have died since the mission began.
Published: January 19, 2021 10:14 PM