Canada France and its Sahelian allies stand tall against jihadism

07:26  30 june  2020
07:26  30 june  2020 Source:   ouest-france.fr

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Des soldats français de l'opération Barkhane dans le nord du Burkina Faso le 12 novembre 2019 © MICHELE CATTANI French soldiers of Operation Barkhane in northern Burkina Faso on November 12, 2019

The G5 Sahel countries and France take stock on Tuesday in Nouakchott on their fight against the jihadists six months after having decided to intensify the common effort to reclaim the lost ground in the region.

The expected observation of the losses inflicted on the enemy during these six months is counterbalanced by the persistent precariousness of the situation and the little progress made on the fronts other than military: political and civil reconstruction, as well as the reconciliation.

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However, these components are unanimously considered essential to get the sub-region out of the spiral of violence started in 2012 in northern Mali.

In January, the summit in Pau (France) was organized under the pressure of a series of setbacks by the armies of the region against the jihadists, the death of 13 French soldiers in operation and questioning of the intervention French.

The heads of state of the G5 Sahel (Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad) and the French ally had agreed to close the ranks.

They had decided to focus their action against the Islamic State organization in the "three-border area" (Mali, Burkina, Niger) under a joint command of the French force Barkhane and the G5 Sahel anti-Jihadist force, meeting you for a new inventory in Nouakchott.

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The same six presidents are announced to be physically present on Tuesday in the Mauritanian capital, their first official trip abroad for Sahelians, the first outside Europe for Frenchman Emmanuel Macron since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The six men and representatives of international organizations (African Union, Francophonie, UN, European Union) will speak in camera.

Reason for satisfaction for France, which has been trying for months to involve its European partners: the meeting will then be extended to the heads of government of Germany, Spain and Italy, by videoconference for the most part.

Un soldat français de l'opération Barkhane en patrouille dans le nord du Burkina Faso le 9 novembre 2019 © MICHELE CATTANI A French soldier from Operation Barkhane on patrol in northern Burkina Faso on November 9, 2019

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- Consolidating the achievements -

Over the past six months, France has increased Barkhane's workforce by 500 soldiers, bringing them to 5,100. She and her partners have multiplied the offensives in the area of ​​the three borders, claiming the "neutralization" of hundreds of jihadists.

In Nouakchott, it will be, according to the Elysée Palace, to open a "consolidation period" in this region.

Another success recorded: in northern Mali, where French special forces, guided by an American drone, killed the head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqmi), the Algerian Abdelmalek Droukdal.

"We have inverted the principle of uncertainty. We are the ones who are unpredictable for terrorist groups", said a high ranking French official just after the operation.

Others put these successes into perspective: at the United Nations in early June, the United States worried about an "inability of the signatories (of the 2015 peace agreement in Mali, note) to make significant progress" which "perpetuates the worsening security situation in the Sahel".

"The number of attacks in the Western Sahel region has increased by 250 percent since 2018. Partner countries remain determined against terrorism, but cannot afford to contain or reduce the threat on a sustained basis" , the US State Department estimates in a recently published report.

In central Mali, local clashes have "largely gone unnoticed in recent months," notes Ibrahim Maïga, a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Bamako.

The jihadist groups are expanding their grip in Burkina, which is sinking dangerously. In Burkina, Mali and Niger, accusations of atrocities against civilians have also increased since the Pau summit against national armies.

The international community is also following with concern political developments, while 2020 is an electoral deadline in the three countries: legislative in March / April in Mali, and especially presidential in Burkina and Niger at the end of the year.

In Burkina, whole areas threaten to be deprived of the presidential election, which therefore risks being contested. As for Mali, its president is faced with a major internal protest, the unpredictable outcome of which worries its West African neighbors and its allies.

ah / lal / sst / plh

Mali. At least 30 dead in several attacks on villages in the center of the country .
© Souleymane Ag Anara / Ouest-France The absence of the Malian army is once again pointed out by the inhabitants of the villages attacked (photo illustration ). At least 30 civilians were killed on Wednesday July 1 in the attack on several villages in central Mali. A region plagued by jihadist and community violence, where the feeling of abandonment by the state is growing.

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