French President Emmanuel Macron says his country will withdraw more than 2,000 troops from West Africa’s Sahel region in the coming months.
During the past years, the former colonial power has maintained military intervention in the volatile area under the pretext of fighting terrorism, but has failed in its purported mission.
After talks in a virtual summit with the leaders of five West African nations at the Elysee presidential Palace in Paris on Friday, Macron said France will pull out over 2,000 troops from its Barkhane force in Africa’s Sahel region by early next year and instead pivot its military presence to specialized regional forces.
The French Barkhane force, operating in Mali, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, currently has 5,000 troops in the region.
Macron said France would focus over the next six months on dismantling the Barkhane operation, closing bases in Sahel’s north and reorganizing troops in the south of the region.
“France will first move its troops further south and then later start reducing their presence to around half the current level of some 5,100 soldiers,” he said.
“The French military will shut down Barkhane bases in Timbuktu, Tessalit and Kidal in northern Mali over the next six months, and start to reconfigure its presence in the coming weeks to focus particularly on the restive border area where Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger meet,” he added.
Macron also repeated claims that France’s military presence in the future will focus on neutralizing extremist operations and strengthening and training local armies.