“Fighting for a state that no longer wants our presence, what is the point of all this? “Retired French colonel Raphaël Bernard, deployed three times in Mali, approves of the decision to leave Mali, while confiding his “bitterness”.
Author of a book describing his experience in the field, “In the heart of Barkhane”, the former senior officer, who left the Army in 2020, believes that it “is good that we retire”.
And to explain: “We have seen, for several months, a political separation between France and the junta which stigmatizes us, without ever openly demanding the departure of the French soldiers. There is, for me, an internal political gesticulation which takes the French presence as leverage. It is deeply iniquitous and unworthy, knowing that France paid the price of blood for Mali and that it spent one billion euros per year in this operation. »
A taste of unfinished
“Militarily, things are going well with the Malians, as shown by the success of the joint operation recently conducted between Fama (Malian armed forces) and European special forces from Takuba”, in the Ménaka region, in the so-called “three borders” on the borders of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.
But, in the context of open hostility displayed by Bamako, “the death of the French brigadier (Alexandre Martin, in January, in the attack on the Gao base, editor’s note) questions. What’s the point ? An officer is there to give orders, but also to give meaning. Today, I wonder how our comrades in the field can still give meaning to the mission”.
And if Raphaël Bernard considers that “in the areas where we operate, in Gao, Gossi or Ménaka, the populations want the presence of France”, he also entrusts a double feeling vis-a-vis the withdrawal of the Barkhane operation: “It is first of all the feeling that we have achieved great things. Barkhane is not a military failure. Mali did not fall into the hands of the jihadists. From 2013 to today, the Malian armed forces have grown from 7,000 to 40,000 men thanks to training efforts. And the Islamic State group in the Greater Sahara (EIGS) suffered very heavy losses. But I also feel bitterness. We have not achieved the ultimate goal, which was to increase the power of the Fama, so that they are able to take charge of the security of their country. We were not at the end of the mission. The desired end state was to bring the jihadist threat within reach of local armies. However, we managed to stem this threat but, with the Malian army, we were not at the end of the road”.
“In the medium or long term, we will come back”
“The problem is that each time we have won a tactical victory, the Malian state has not taken the opportunity to hand over services, judges, prefects, security forces in these areas of the north, he regrets. But nature abhors a vacuum. When the terrorists arrive with their sharia, for the local populations, it is sometimes better than nothing. »
“Afterwards, in Mali, there is a historical and cultural chasm between the Tuaregs of the North and the Bambaras of the South. Ten kilometers from Gao, there is no more paved road. It may have been a strategic mistake to believe in an indivisible Mali. But was it politically correct to say otherwise? ” As for the future of Mali, the former officer advances: ” I do not see the various forces of the country uniting around the same project. In the medium or long term, I think we will come back. »
letelegramme Fr Trans