On January 13th 2020, Emmanuel Macron the President of the French Republic hosted a summit with the leaders of the Sahel five (Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Chad) in Paris.
This date was chosen after a previously planned summit in December was postponed resulting from a recent Jihadi attack in the region. It seems that a week does not go by without a report of an attack in either Burkina Faso or Niger. Just this past weekend one such attack took place which resulted in the deaths of dozens of Nigerien Soldiers.
There were several key takeaways from this meeting, which includes;
There is an increase in anti-French sentiment in all five West African States. During the summit President Macron stated that a clear lack of political commitment would lead to the withdrawal of the French troops currently deployed to the region.
Currently there are wide swaths of territory in Mali and Burkina Faso that are currently ungovernable and ethnic tensions are being stoked.
During the Joint Press Conference, President Roch Marc Kabere remarked that, “today, more than ever, the facts is result,'” and that “it’s for this reason that we decided to review the deployment and redefine the pillars for future action.”
A new force is now in operation. The Coalition for the Sahel brings together France, the Sahel five Nations and any future states that will want to join up. One can assume that the future forces could be other regional states as well as the United States.
Recent reports of a shift in focus by the United States away from the Sahel in order to confront challenges from Iran, Russia and China have raised concerns among the embassies in Washington, however, before 2019 ended the US did deliver equipment to Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso, which makes one wonder about what will be offered and delivered to both Mali and Mauritania.
President Macron has gone on record to state that he will reach out to President Trump in order to get more support and commitments from the United States not to leave the Sahel. This is an admission that the French position in West Africa could be untenable at a glance.
The logistics capabilities of the United States and the quality of the US Special Forces appear to be seen as a lifesaver in certain circles. Their presence are desired by certain elements in the region as well.
The clear takeaway is that it appears that the insurgents are gaining grounds in the Sahel despite the French efforts.
Therefore, in a way, the French wants the US to help bail them out.