Getting To The Bottom Of France’s G5 Sahel Initiative

Getting To The Bottom Of France’s G5 Sahel Initiative

Sarah Tseba Sarah Tseba

 French President Emanuel Macron was just in the West African country of Mali for the second time in as many months since being elected, proving Paris’ anti-terrorist commitment to a battle which many people forgot that it’s even fighting. The large Sahelian-Saharan state of Mali saw nearly 2/3 of its mostly desert territory briefly conquered by terrorists in 2012 following a Tuareg uprising that was exploited by Islamic militants. In many ways, what happened in Mali was a harbinger for what would later unfold in"Syraq” in 2014 with Daesh, and the ongoing course of the War on Terror in West Africa might hint at what’s to come in the Mideast once the terrorists there are "officially” defeated. Pretty much, the terrorists were never really defeated in Mali, they just disbanded their pseudo-statelet and dug in for the long haul, becoming what we could more or less describe as insurgents. This enduring conflict has put a tremendous strain on Malian and French resources, which is why there’s still a multinational coalition active in the country.  

 France wants to delegate more military responsibilities to its regional allies in order to lessen the burden of its historic hegemonic leadership in West Africa, which is why it formed the G5 Sahel format a few years ago. The countries involved are all the ones where France has spread its anti-terrorist forces across in the past few years as part of the ongoing Operation Barkhane, and these states are expected to dispatch troops to Mali as well. Other than Mali, of course, this includes Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad, the latter two of which are also involved in another regional coalition fighting against Boko Haram. Out of all of these states, Chad has the strongest and most effective military, so it’ll be expected to play a key role in ensuring peace in Mali, though provided that it receives the right incentives to do so. The problem is that Chad has been complaining that it’s not receiving enough financial support for its ongoing operations there, and that it can’t commit any more troops to the mission.  

 This caused some observers to speculate that Chad’s existing forces in Mali will simply ‘switch hats’ and become part of the new French-led multinational force, which essentially won’t make any difference in terms of changing the anti-terrorist dynamics there. A few voices have suggested that Macron wants the G5 Sahel group to eventually pave the way for France to withdraw its 4000 troops from the country, and even though he denies this, it’s hard not to wonder whether that’s really what this initiative is all about. Whether it is or not, France will likely have to remain in the country for the next couple of years if it’s serious about ensuring security there and training its regional allies to take on the added responsibilities of peacekeeping and what essentially amounts to "nation-building”. If successful, then France will have proven that it’s capable of effectively forming geographically far-reaching anti-terrorist military alliances like the US has thus far been able to do, but if it fails, then it’ll be left to pick up the pieces in order to prevent another large-scale migrant wave from crashing into Europe.

Andrew KORYBKO / Political Analyst - Moscow 

DISCLAIMER: The author writes for this publication in a private capacity which is unrepresentative of anyone or any organization except for his own personal views. Nothing written by the author should ever be conflated with the editorial views or official positions of any other media outlet or institution.   


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