Following the 2013 arrival of French troops in Mali, In August 2014, the French deployment to the Sahel region became Operation Barkhane. The deployment eventually grew to include over 5,000 French military personnel and although international partners eventually joined in support of France, the French commitment remained by far the most significant. Controversial at home and abroad due to mounting losses and accusations of killing civilians, the anti-terrorist campaign will soon be coming to an end according to French President Emanuel Macron.
Nevertheless, the end of Barkhane does not translate into the end of French presence; Macron has made it clear that French forces will remain in the Sahel region as part of a more international force strictly focusses on fighting terrorism. For example, France will maintain a leading role as part of the European advisory Takuba Task Force in Mali.
France has been frustrated by the recent coup in Mali which came less than a year after a similar coup in 2020. In the wake of the coup, France initially threatened to pull troops from the country and then froze combined operations in the country. A few days ago, Macron stated that France would not support a state “where there is no longer democratic legitimacy or transition”. A Similar line of thought could be seen in the statements made by the president announcing the end of Operation Barkhane.
“The time has come. The continuation of our commitment in the Sahel cannot be in the same way. […] The long-term presence of France in external operations cannot be a substitute to the return of the State and services of the State to the political stability and choice of sovereign states.”
France has also suspended military ties with the Central African Republic (CAR). French officials accused the CAR government of being complicit in Russian disinformation campaigns against French presence in the country. The CAR has furthermore failed to live up to French political expectations with many opposition politicians being detained despite promises made to France that a dialogue with the opposition will be held. The CAR government resigned just days after the French decision.