Paris/Andjamena: President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to continue France’s military presence in the Sahel region to end Al Qaeda and its affiliated terrorist groups, resorting to violence in the area. A virtual meeting of the heads of state of France and the Sahel was held on Wednesday. Despite France’s deployments to the region in 2013 and African countries’ participation, the terrorist activities have intensified. The French president’s assurance, therefore, assumes much significance.
In 2012, radical groups in northern Mali had attempted a coup. Although the coup failed, terrorist organizations appear to have taken advantage of the ensuing instability. In the last few years, terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda, IS, and Ansar al-Islam have increased their influence. The successive attacks in Mali, Nigeria, and Niger, in the last two years, only demonstrate their growing power.
Terrorist groups linked to IS and al-Qaeda are repeatedly carrying out attacks on the militaries of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. These are said to have claimed the lives of over 400 soldiers. It has delivered a significant blow to the Sahel countries, which have conducted operations and campaigns in the region. Besides, the ongoing terrorist attacks made it evident that the armies of the Sahel countries lacked proper training, weapons and information.
Even the French Army, stationed in the Sahel, has lost 50 soldiers. France has thus become aggressive and stepped up its counter-terrorism operations in recent months. Earlier, France had deployed about 4,500 troops in the area. However, terrorist groups have carried out significant attacks not just on African nations but also on French military bases. As a result, French President Macron announced the deployment of 600 additional troops last year.
For the past two years, France has been trying to get European countries to help in African campaigns. Nevertheless, the European Union (EU) and major countries have not given the required response. The bloc has not indicated its readiness for cooperation other than providing financial assistance. France will therefore have to put in more efforts on that front. As he promised to end terrorist organizations, the French president also made it clear that he would not cut down military deployments.
Apart from France, Chad, a leading country in the Sahel region, has also announced additional military deployments. Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno has announced the deployment of 1,200 troops and clarified that they will be stationed at Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso’s border zones. Five countries in the Sahel region have already formed an independent force called the G5S or the G5 Sahel, which comprises 3,000 troops. Since it did not yield enough success, France’s role and contribution in the war proves crucial.