Some assessments are difficult. A year after the final effort which was supposed to allow the French army to find an honorable way out in the Sahel, that of Operation “Barkhane” promises to be delicate. On January 13, 2020, in Pau, Emmanuel Macron thus gave his “go” to sending 600 additional soldiers, in particular to Mali, for a total number of 5,100 soldiers deployed never reached after eight years of war. But, while a reduction in the sails could be announced in the coming weeks, the situation is bitter.
On a strictly operational level, first of all, there are no public figures for the number of jihadists killed after eight years of intervention. The Ministry of the Armed Forces always argues that this count does not make sense in itself and that the main thing is that there be a “Barkhane” impact on the daily life of Malians or neighboring Sahelian states. Now, that is the whole dilemma. In the opinion of many interlocutors, military successes have been numerous in recent months. Several jihadist figures were killed, including the founder of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abdelmalek Droukdel, in June 2020. But these victories did not have the hoped for political translation.
The harshest on the subject is undoubtedly the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres. In his last quarterly report on the situation in Mali, published on December 28, in which he notably reviews the work of the soldiers of the Minusma, the United Nations stabilization mission, he lists the very numerous violence of all kinds which are confronted with civilian populations. And this, despite “The increased pace” of “Barkhane” operations. “The security conditions continued to deteriorate (…) especially in the center of the country (…). In the North, violent extremist groups remained active ”, he points out.
However, some progress should be noted, believes Elie Tenenbaum, researcher at the Center for Security Studies of the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), specialist in defense issues. At the beginning of 2020, the Malian army, for example, was in the midst of a rout. “Its bases were regularly the object of deadly jihadist raids and looting of its supplies and armaments”, describes Mr. Tenenbaum. This is no longer the case. The rise of the Malian forces is still very embryonic, but “Barkhane” has put “A big kick in the anthill” jihadist, insists the researcher.
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