Did France's Operation Barkhane win the fight against terror in the Sahel?

© AFP - DAPHNE BENOIT

This week, President Emmanuel Macron announced the official end of France's anti-jihadist mission in West Africa – Operation Barkhane. The move was accelerated by a collapse of relations with Mali's military junta, leading to the withdrawal of French troops as the jihadist insurgency across the Sahel continues.

At its peak, Operation Barkhane saw up to 5,500 French soldiers deployed in Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

But in July of this year, President Macron said that fighting terrorism was "no longer the objective" of Mali’s military junta. That determined France's decision to leave Malian soil, redeploying troops involved in Operation Barkhane to Niger.

Mali's military government lambasted France for being "neo-colonial, paternalistic and condescending".

With a key strategic partnership gone, France had little choice but to call time on Barkhane.

It was an ignominious end to such a long-fought battle – eight years, three months and eight days, to be precise.

Was the deployment worth it?

Speaking to RFI, Wassim Nasr, a journalist and expert on jihadist movements, is quick to acknowledge the achievements of Barkhane and a joint European Special Forces operation in 2020, which together contained the Islamic State in the so-called "three-border region". This vast territory straddles the frontiers of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.

"The lowest point was when President Macron declared the end of Barkhane three months ago, and the disengagement of the French military," Nasr says.


Read more on RFI English

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