Seven years-long combatant France is revisiting it’s military footprint in Africa’s Sahel, in view of reducing troops number as joint European task Force deploys.
Few weeks ago, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defense Minister Florence Parly both visited Mali to assess troops presence in the Sahel region. “We are getting close to the end of the year, a natural point to assess our progress,” Parly said.
For several years, the French military and it’s Western and local allies have been the bulwark preventing Malian extremists from overrunning the region.
Last Summer, President Macron had said that France would reassess and restructure its Barkhane force by the end of the year. The troops drawdown will make France focus on its Special Operations Task Force “Takuba” commitments.
Takuba will train, advise, assist, and accompany host nation troops from the G5 Sahel. Besides France, it will consist of troops from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
In July, Operation Task Force Takuba reached its Initial Operating capability (IOC) well ahead of its planned full operational capability in 2021. Although, several of its component Forces are already on ground.
Estonia troops are in-theatre and have already conducted joint missions with the G5 Nations last month. The Czech Republic parliament has approved it’s own military pledge and would soon deploy it’s own contingent, while a 150-man Swedish contribution are preparing to be deployed in 2021. Netherlands plans a minimal contribution, while Italy hasn’t announced its deployment timetable.
The French ministry described Task Force Takuba as a “new example of strong co-operation between European countries,” stating that it will eventually become the fifth tactical desert group (GTD) of its Operation Barkhane regional counterterrorism mission. The GTDs currently include air combat and logistics groups.
Denmark has provided two EH101 helicopters, while SOF components from Belgium, Estonia, Portugal, and France will make up the bulk of the task force on the ground. Germany has also suggested it will support ground forces with the deployment of H145M helicopters, although a final decision has not made
Earlier this year, the security situation in the Sahel, especially in Mali, had deteriorated to the point where France needed to send in more troops, bringing the total number of soldiers fighting under Operation Barkhane to 5,100.
France’ Operation Barkhane has made very few headway in bringing peace and stability in the region, prompting French lawmakers and people to worry that the country is getting dragged into an unwinnable forever war.
“[AQIM] is now the most dangerous enemy for Mali and the international forces,” Barkhane commander General Marc Conruyt said, but Parly noted that France was alone for a long time regarding the conflict, but it is no longer alone, and “I’m very optimistic that we’re now going to shift gears.”