“It is not certain that the French will long accept losing a soldier every month in the Sahel”

Tribune. Eleven French soldiers have just been killed or wounded in Mali in two weeks. These painful losses have been interpreted as symptoms of failure. It is a mistake. Just because soldiers are falling in a war does not mean that we are losing it. In fact, if our losses have increased over the past year, it is in fact because we took more risks, which, in the end, allowed us to regain the upper hand on the enemy. If we fall more, the enemy falls more.

Read the editorial: France facing the Malian quagmire

Killing enemy combatants is not an end in itself, however. This only makes sense if it achieves strategic effects: neutralize the enemy, destroy him or bring him to negotiate under favorable conditions. And since this enemy is not the “Terrorist bloc” that we present but a bunch of different groups, the effects we can hope for will probably be a combination of all of these.

Defeat jihadist groups

To understand where we are, we have to start by remembering where we wanted to be.

“We intervened at the request of the Malian government and because we considered that the destabilization of the region threatened our security”

We truly engaged in combat in January 2013, a first since 1979 in sub-Saharan Africa, against the three groups that occupied northern Mali: Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar Dine, and the Movement for Uniqueness. and jihad in West Africa (Mujao), which later became Al-Mourabitoune.

Why did we do it? Because the Malian government asked us to do so and because we considered that the destabilization of the region could have serious consequences for our security. We also intervened because we were the only ones who could defeat the jihadist groups, and we did so by driving them out of the towns they controlled and destroying their bases. It was a relative victory, because you can only expect that, but it changed the situation.

More missions, less resources

We could then have gone back to the previous posture, but we preferred to stay in Mali and make it the center of gravity of the new operation called “Barkhane”, in cooperation with the five G5 Sahel countries: Mauritania, Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali.

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The fighting has taken on a new form. It was no longer a question of reconquering a territory but, according to the terms of the mission, of “To contain the activity of” armed terrorist groups (GAT) “at a low threat level until the local armed forces can carry out this mission themselves within the framework of a restored authority of the States on the whole of their territory “. We forgot to specify that this mission also had to be successful in less than ten years, the empirical limit of the approval of an operation by French public opinion. It was a very risky bet.

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