More combined military operations and stronger “hearts and minds” engagement are planned by the G5 Sahel countries. The “three-border region’s” farming and cattle herding populations will be targeted.
The G5 nations are taking the strategic lead in finalizing the new strategy at defense discussions this week in Niamey, Nigerien’s capital. After President Emmanuel Macron recently declared that France’s counter-terrorism Operation Barkhane was coming to an end, with French force numbers in the Sahel being reduced from 5,100 to 2,500-3,000 over the next few months, the country is reverting to a support role. Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso have had to deal with Chad’s sudden decision in August to cut its deployment in the three-border region from 1,200 to 600 troops.
Chad’s junta has decided to bring home half of its troops in order to focus on local security issues. Boko Haram, based in Nigeria, and its branch Iswap, as well as the consequences of the crisis in the Central African Republic, are among them .
President Idriss Déby’s Chadian contingent, which was dispatched to the central Sahel in February, has been criticized for being unsuited to the region’s highly dynamic terrain. According to Human Rights Watch, 420 people have been killed in western Niger alone this year. Heavy artillery and tracked armored vehicles were widely used by the Chadian military.
A STRONG ROLE FOR THE EU FORCE IS EXPECTED.
It is more important to adjust to the diminution in France’s military role. Mr. Macron has been dogged by domestic political doubts about his long-term strategic objectives in the Sahel for months. When he declared the conclusion of Operation Barkhane on the day of the G7 conference in June, he stressed that France would still have a significant presence in the region. On the 9th of July, details were revealed during a joint press conference with Niger’s newly elected President Mohamed Bazoum. Force Takuba, a European force that was established last year and works closely with the Malian army, will play a larger role. France will maintain a small counter-terrorist force and will continue to contribute significantly to the European Union mission. Paul Melly works for Chatham House’s Africa Program as a Consulting Fellow.