However, the mission known as Operation Barkhane will be replaced by a more international effort, Macron said at a press conference ahead of the G7 summit. He added that more details would be announced “in the coming weeks”.
France currently has 5,100 soldiers in the region in connection with Operation Barkhane, which, according to the French Ministry of Defense, operates in Chad, Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.
Macron said France will now consult with its American and European partners and initiate a “profound transformation” of the French military presence in the Sahel.
“This transformation is becoming a model shift” with a “new framework” that signifies “the end of Barkhane as an external operation to an operation of support and cooperation with armies in the countries of the [Sahel] Region asking for it, “said Macron.
“The time has come. The continuation of our engagement in the Sahel zone cannot be like this. With our partners at our side, but also with countries in the region (…) we will draw conclusions about what worked (…) and what did not. “
Operation Barkhane will be replaced by “a military operation and an international alliance that connects countries in the region with all our partners and is strictly limited to the fight against terrorism,” said Macron.
The Takuba Task Force – the French-led European military task force that advises, supports and accompanies the Malian armed forces in the Sahel region – will be at the center of the effort, he said. The French army would form the “backbone” of this force, supplemented by special forces from European and partner countries in the region, he added.
“France’s long-term presence in external operations cannot be a substitute for the return of the state and the services of the state for political stability and the choice of sovereign states,” Macron said in the region.
“We cannot secure zones that are falling back into instability because states choose not to take their own responsibility. That is impossible,” he said.
At the request of Mali, the former colonial power France launched Operation Serval in January 2013, a United Nations-sanctioned ground and air operation against Islamist militants. The plan was to evict the jihadists and prevent them from continuing to the capital, Bamako.
The UN dispatched a peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA, and the French mission was replaced in August 2014 by Operation Barkhane, a broader French anti-terrorist mission against Islamists in the Sahel.
In an interview with the French newspaper Journal du Dimanche on May 29, Macron threatened to withdraw French troops from Mali if the country were to move in the direction of radical Islamism.