French Army Exit from Sahel Unsettles Mali

France’s Operation Barkhane will formally end and be replaced by another mission focused on fighting extremists that relies more on regional partners.

Denizens of Mali reacted to Thursday’s announcement by President Emmanuel Macron on the future reduction of French military presence fighting insurgents in Africa’s Sahel region.

French soldiers from Operation Barkhane stand outside their armoured personnel carrier during a sandstorm in Inat, Mali, May 26, 2016. REUTERS/Media Coulibaly

France announced its halting of joint military operations with Mali after the coup in May. Headquartered in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena with 5,100 soldiers deployed across the Sahel as part of Operation Barkhane, French troops have been present in Mali since 2013 when they intervened to force extremist rebels from power in cities across the Northern swath of the country.

Due to rising militant attacks over the years, most Malians object to the presence of foreign forces in the country. There is a rising fear that the insurgency could swing south, destabilising countries on the Gulf of Guinea.

French intelligence released footage of a meeting between Al-Qaeda commanders in the Sahel where they planned to expand towards the coast.

Several thousand French troops will remain in the region in total, participating in various operations including the new cooperation mission.

In a related development, Ivorian Prime Minister Patrick Achi and Defence Minister Téné Birahima Ouattara along with French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian met yesterday  in a strategic occasion in Jacqueville near the capital to inaugurate the Académie internationale de lutte contre le terrorisme, AILCT (International Academy for Combating Terrorism)

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