Macron announces French force in Sahel will end in early 202222

France’s anti-jihadist force in the Sahel region, involving more than 5,000 troops today, will end in the first quarter of 2022, President Emmanuel Macron announced on Tuesday.

Last week Macron announced a phasing out of the French military presence in the Sahel and the end of the existing Barkhane operation.

Now he has put a timeline on the end of the operation, while assuring that France is “not completely withdrawing” from the region.

“We will bring an orderly end to Operation Barkhane in the first quarter of 2022,” Macron told troops on the eve of France’s traditional Bastille Day celebrations.

Last week, Macron said he envisioned France’s future presence as part of a so-called Takuba international task force in the Sahel, of which hundreds of French soldiers would form the “backbone”.

It would mean the closure of French bases and the use of special forces focused on counter-terror operations and military training.

France currently has 5,100 troops in the arid and unstable Sahel region, which stretches across sub-Saharan Africa and includes half a dozen countries.

The Barkhane operation dates from a first deployment in January 2013 when Paris intervened to stop the advance of jihadists in Mali.

Macron on Tuesday praised the troops of the Barkhane force and said the French army had prevented the establishment of a caliphate in the Sahel in recent years.

For years, Macron has been trying to get Western allies to help bear the brunt of a counter-terrorism battle in the Sahel, where France, the region’s former colonial power, is the leading foreign presence.

The April assassination of the veteran leader of Chad, a close ally of Paris, and two coups in less than a year in Mali underlined the threat posed by the ongoing political instability in the region.

(AFP)

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