FRANCE’S “AFGHANISTAN” is the Sahel region of Sub-Saharan Africa – the GREEN area in the above map. Then note also the enormous size of the RED striped areas marking Jihadists activity in the Sahel, in comparison to the previous hot spots of Iraq Yemen Somalia & Libya.
In October 2020 President Macron signaled that after years of French military intervention. He ‘intended’ to reduce the numbers of French soldiers with the G5 Sahel Joint Force.
On February 16 France chaired a Regional Summit of the Leaders G5 Sahel countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
President Macron changed course following that Summit and said that France had no ‘immediate plans’ to adjust its military presence in the African Sahel, but he added ‘significant changes’ will undoubtedly be made in due course.
Islam fighters first appeared in the Region in 2012 in Northern Mali during a local uprising by Tuareg Separatists. The Tuareg welcomed the help of Jihadists fleeing Iraq and Syria following the defeat of ISIS. France intervened to quickly suppress the uprising but the Jihadists were not defeated. They scattered, taking their ideology, arms and military skills into the ethnic and religious (Christian/Muslim) powder keg of Central Mali, then into Burkina Faso and onto Niger.
France is searching for an exit strategy after years of fruitless military intervention which has cost the French taxpayer billions, seen 55 French soldiers killed, many more injured, some badly, with more than 2m civilian refugees forced from their homes. All this in one of the poorest parts of Africa. Yet the violence persists and shows all the familiar signs of spreading to the countries of coastal West Africa.
France has urged the G5 countries to expand their own anti-terrorist operations and work harder to counter corrupting, restore good governance and services to those areas where the Jihadists have now ‘de facto’ control.
Such urging has had little success, in fact it has only resulted in a wave of anti-French sentiment. There have been public demonstrations against France’s new neo-colonialism.
“There are just too many problems – economic, political and religious – for France’s intervention force not to be seen as an occupation force”. The continuing French presence was further complicated last month by an air strike in Central Mali, which locals reported killed 19 members of a wedding party. France and the Mali Government s have both insisted the January 3 strike killed 30 terrorists.
All this must sound strongly familiar to Americans weary of Afghanistan.
17 February 2021