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The stake is now clearly displayed by the army staff: it is in the south of the Sahel that the fight against terrorism must be concentrated. Mali is no longer the main intervention territory and it is the threat of the expansion of jihadism towards the Gulf of Guinea that must be countered in the first place. While the approximately 425 French soldiers of Operation “Barkhane”, who were still deployed in northern Mali, ended, Tuesday, December 14, by officially leaving Timbuktu – the last of their three bases in the region -, which was a factual reality for many months now becomes an assumed priority.
“The agenda of the Support Group for Islam and Muslims [version locale d’Al-Qaida] is clear and announced: go towards the Gulf of Guinea, was thus justified, Tuesday, at the staff of the armies. Yesterday, it was an attempt of territorialization in the zone of the three borders, today it is a dissemination towards the south and towards the west. “ A threat already concrete in Niger, Burkina Faso, northern Côte d’Ivoire – improvised explosive devices have exploded recently – and which is also materializing in Benin. On December 2, the army experienced its first terrorist attack there: two soldiers were killed.
This alert on the risks of an expansion of jihadism towards the Gulf of Guinea is not new. “Terrorists are already financing men who are spreading in Côte d’Ivoire and Benin”, underlined, in February, the boss of the general direction of the French foreign intelligence, Bernard Emié, during a rare public speech. But it was only in July, a month after announcing the “end of“ Barkhane ”” in its initial format, that the Head of State, Emmanuel Macron, formally assumed this shift: “The mistake would have been to linger in a pattern which no longer corresponds to either the geography or the mode of dissemination of the threat”, he said at a G5 Sahel summit bringing together the main countries hitherto concerned by France’s action: Mauritania, Chad, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.
An operational reservoir
Concretely, in the new configuration of “Barkhane” – historically organized around three poles (N’Djamena in Chad, Gao in Mali and Niamey in Niger) -, the role of the base of the Nigerien capital, where the States are already established. -United, will be strengthened. Niamey, where a good part of the French air resources are stationed, will be the main junction point between the air support actions of “Barkhane” – that the army staff says it wants to continue to reassure the armies of the Sahel – and the new South-oriented counterterrorism efforts.
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The delicate adaptation of “Barkhane” facing the jihadist expansion towards the Gulf of Guinea