France ends Operation Barkhane

On November 9, France ended the decade-long Operation Barkhane in Africa. This comes amid the deteriorating ties between France and countries in the Sahel –Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea – following a series of military coups.

What is Operation Barkhane?

France launched Operation Serval in January 2013 in the Sahel in North Africa. The operation was limited to countering Islamic extremists linked to al-Qaeda, who have taken up control of northern Mali.

In 2014, this Operation Serval was scaled up and renamed as Operation Barkhane. The upgraded operation’s objective is to assist local armed forces in preventing resurgence of non-state armed groups across the Sahel region. It launched counter-terror operations in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Chad. As part of this mission, some 4,500 French personnel were deployed alongside the local joint counter-terrorism force.

Has France achieved the objectives of the Operation Barkhane?

  • The French military operation in Sahel had two goals:
  1. Liberate Mali from the insurgents in the north
  2. Neutralize key terrorists in West Africa using counter-terrorism operations
  • Some of the major successes of Operation Serval are:
  1. In 2014, the French-led forces were able to regain northern parts of Mali from the extremists.
  2. In 2020, two key leaders of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and al-Qaeda-affiliate Groupe de Soutien à l’Islam et aux Musulmans were neutralized.
  • Due to the success of Operation Serval, Operation Barkhane was launched. This operation saw a series of failures such as:
  1. Emergence of new groups linked to terrorist organizations like the Islamic State
  2. Humanitarian crisis emerged because of the operation’s failure to combat terrorism. Violence resulted in 5,450 deaths across Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger in just the first half of 2022. This is a significant increase when compared with the previous years.
  3. Over 2,000 incidents of Islamist violence were recorded in the Sahel in 2021. The previous year recorded over 1,180 incidents.
  4. Due to the failure to resolve the region’s insurgency, civilian support has increased to the military. This has contributed to the political uncertainty in the Sahel.

 

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