French Forces have decided to retreat from Mali to Niger Republic, a move analysts say would boost Military collaboration to fight insurgents and other assailants in the country.
Colonel Hervé Pierre, the man in charge of coordinating France’s pivot from Mali to Niger, spoke to newsmen about the “extremely complex” reorganisation.
Following President Macron‘s announcement in February that “multiple obstructions” by Mali had made it difficult for France to continue its operation there, more than 2,400 French soldiers stationed in Mali as part of Operation Barkhane are retreating.
According to analysts, the military reorganisation, which is estimated to take four to six months, is part of a larger effort by Paris and its European allies to reconsider their regional policy after nine years of fighting in Mali.
The pullout will also give Mali’s military junta, which seized power in a coup in 2020, time to consider its own strategic relationships with Sahelian countries like Russia and Turkey.
While Niger already serves as a major air hub for French forces, it will now be at the centre of the Barkhane operation, with a command centre being established in Niamey.
Colonel Hervé Pierre, a veteran of many French deployments in Africa, said French troops will be stationed along the border, keeping Barkhane close to Mali.
“The border is a favoured spot for armed terrorists to settle, hide and refuel and so that is where we will have to go and look for them,” he told newsmen.
To prevent a security vacuum, General Laurent Michon, who oversees the Barkhane force, said the pullout would need to be planned with Mali’s military “as swiftly as feasible.”
France also wanted to be “assured” that Malian troops would be able to take over the country’s bases.
According to data from the French Ministry of Defence, Operation Barkhane has three military locations in northern Mali, with the majority of personnel based in Gao, where the tactical desert unit is based.
The rural communities of Gossi, near the Burkina Faso border, and Menaka, near the Niger border, are the other two.
The improved military cooperation agreement between Niger’s army and France must still be approved by parliament, which is expected to pass.
The change in France’s military approach comes as bloodshed in Mali has risen in recent weeks, with at least 400 people dead in a series of atrocities carried out by the local Islamic State affiliate.
It also comes at a time when anti-French sentiment is rising in Sahel countries.
However, Paris has been quick to dismiss claims that it failed in its mission, which has been compared to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, instead claiming that its speedy departure is due to both local and global politics.
“We cannot remain militarily engaged alongside de-facto authorities whose strategy and hidden aims we do not share,” Macron told journalists.
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