Paris continues its attempts to solve the security crisis in the African Sahel region in the face of the widespread expansion of terrorist groups, as French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly announced that her country must “find a way” to continue the goal of combating terrorists in West Africa.
“In the Sahel region, the security situation is still difficult, and it is now complicated by the unfavorable political situation in Mali,” the minister said in her statements, adding, “We will have to find a way, despite these difficulties, to pursue the task we set for ourselves, which West African countries are asking for our support: the fight against terrorism.”
The African Sahel region suffers from various turmoil at the security and political levels, especially the Republic of Mali, which is erupting in an international conflict, especially against the background of the intertwined interests of France and Russia in the region.
Importance of cooperation in fight against terrorism
Through its strong military participation in the African Sahel region with the G5 countries, which include Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mauritania, France stressed the importance of cooperation in the fight against terrorism, while many countries neighboring Mali suffer from violence, such as the Ivory Coast, Togo and Benin.
“More than ever, we have a responsibility to bear towards these countries, as well as towards all partners, especially the Europeans who engage with us in the Sahel,” Parly said.
The junta that came to power in Mali in 2020 following a coup does not intend to restore power to civilians in the short term, and this angered the countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which adopted heavy sanctions against Bamako.
It is likely that the European Union will resort to the same step under pressure from France, and at the request of Paris, a number of European countries agreed to engage in Mali during the past two years, especially by participating in the joint Takuba Task Force, which brings together European special forces to accompany the Malian forces in the fight.
Warnings against using Wagner’s services
The African Sahel region represents a wide influence for France, linked to a set of factors such as language and ancient political dependency, but for a while the region witnessed an international struggle between Paris and Moscow, with the latter entering as a competitor in the region amid different persuasions of the political leadership.
On September 29, 2021, Parly warned the Malian government against using the services of the Russian security company Wagner Group, threatening it with international isolation and loss of support if its relationship extended with the Russian company, which the French administration described as mercenaries.
Tensions escalated between the French and Malian governments against the backdrop of Malian Prime Minister ChoguelKokalla Maiga accusing the French administration of abandoning his country in what he described as “midway.” He said at the United Nations General Assembly on September 26, 2021, that France’s decision to withdraw the Barkhane force represented an abandonment of his country.
Maiga also expressed his regret that Paris did not respect the principle of consultation before its decision to withdraw its forces from the country, denouncing its unilateral stance towards the security crisis that the country is going through.
For his part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that it was the Malian government that requested the help of the private Russian company, and that the Russian government had nothing to do with this matter, pointing out the impact of the French withdrawal on Mali’s decision.
Despite Paris’ decision to reduce its military presence in Mali, Parly stressed that her country will not leave Mali completely, but rather is determined to fight terrorist groups in the region in cooperation with the Malian government and its military forces.