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US News The second life of Operation Barkhane

11:20  28 january  2021
11:20  28 january  2021 Source:   parismatch.com

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While France's commitment will be discussed at the next G5 Sahel summit, scheduled for Ndjamena in mid-February, President Macron's desire to downsize does not worry the officers.

  La deuxième vie de l’opération Barkhane © Thomas Paudeleux / AP / SIPA

During the night of January 23 to 24, two camps of the Malian Armed Forces (Fama) resisted two attacks by armed terrorist groups (GAT). "The Fama immediately gained the ascendancy over their adversary and held their position," said the statement from the French general staff. "It is timely," added the spokesperson, Colonel Barbry. We've been talking about the upgrading of our partners for a long time. " And to salute the coordination between the Malian and French forces. Less than an hour after the start of hostilities, a Tucano plane from the Malian army came to support the ground troops, followed by a patrol of Tigre helicopters and Mirage 2000.

Mali: the police disperse opponents of the French military presence

 Mali: the police disperse opponents of the French military presence © AFP / anne Risemberg The anti-jihadist force Barkhane regularly arouses expressions of animosity, especially during episodic demonstrations in Bamako, as here in January 2020. The Malian forces fired tear gas on Wednesday in Bamako to disperse a hundred demonstrators who, despite the ban on their gathering because of the pandemic, began to protest against the presence of the French anti-jihadist force in the country.

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In the early morning, the attackers flee, leaving behind around thirty dead, vehicles and equipment. On the Malian side, the attack resulted in 6 dead and 18 injured. Shortly before the G5 Sahel summit to be held in Ndjamena, Chad , in mid-February, despite the victims and the situation there, this fight instills a wind of optimism. It was time.

While Emmanuel Macron spoke in his greetings to the armies on January 19 about a "resizing" of French troops in Mali and Niger, doubt has set in. The staff's Twitter account may well convey the good news, public opinion retains only the bad: the death of 5 French soldiers between December 28 and January 2, 6 seriously injured on the 8th. The exorbitant cost of the operation: 1 billion euros per year for a war which, seen from France, may seem distant and unnecessary. For the first time in January, an Ifop poll found a majority of French people hostile to the intervention.

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While in Bamako voices are being raised to encourage a dialogue with the GSIM, whose agenda is political, some in France hope for this reconciliation

After eight years of presence in Mali, it is no longer just the north, but also the center of the country which is won by insecurity. The red zone extends to the point of circumscribing the capital, Bamako, within a radius of 200 kilometers. "It is an area of ​​contestation and predation," summarizes Barbry. The Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), led by Tuareg rebel Iyad Ag Ghali and allied with Al-Qaeda, is arguing over territory with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (EIGS). "It causes them to regroup and this is where they can be hit," said the staff spokesman. This partly explains our tactical success, but we can't deny their residual ability to put pressure on and attack in turn. ” While in Bamako voices are being raised to encourage a dialogue with the GSIM, whose agenda is political, some in France are hoping for this reconciliation. “The problems in Mali, explains General Christophe Gomart, former director of military intelligence, are political and economic. You cannot say that the French army is bogged down because there are no military problems. "

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Historian and former colonel of the navy troops, Michel Goya also considers that "France obtained a military victory by weakening the Islamic State in the Great Sahara and by pushing the GSIM to want to negotiate". It remains to be seen what will remain of this "victory for France" if the troops return home. "If today we abandon the Sahel, we will have to come back to it," continues Christophe Gomart. Author of "Shadow Soldier" (ed. Tallandier), the former commander of special operations, on the contrary, pleads for "reaction forces with light means that go quickly and far". Nothing inconsistent with President Macron’s decision to downsize. "This is a change of device, says Michel Goya, which goes in the right direction, since the idea is to make the operation less expensive and that it lasts longer."

In figures

5,100 soldiers

Duration of the mission: eight years *

7 fighter jets

22 helicopters

290 heavy armored vehicles

Losses: 55 dead *

* By integrating Operation Serval in Mali

Variants in Île-de-France: the latest results "are not good" .
© AFP / Thomas Samson A caregiver during a massive screening operation, in Saint-Denis, January 21, 2021. What soon to question the government's decision not to confine the country? The latest results on the presence of SARS-CoV-2 variants in circulation "are not good" in Île-de-France, warned Rémi Salomon, president of the medical commission of the Public Assistance-Hospitals of Paris (AP -HP).

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