23/05/2023 - 2500 French soldiers in the Sahel but for all that, "there is no French operation" according to General Bruno Baratz. The post-Barkhane era seems to persist in its lack of transparency and parliamentary consultation.
During an interview on May 23, 2023 with RFI with General Bruno Baratz, commander of French forces in the Sahel, the reorganization of French military operations in the Sahel was mentioned following the official end of Operation Barkhane on November 9. While a desire to "de-Barkhanize the mindset" is now the order of the day, 2500 French soldiers are still deployed in Niger and Chad. Our organizations, active in the Sahel, question the lack of clarity regarding the status under which these soldiers operate, and more broadly on French strategic developments in a region marked by a growing rejection of its policy.
For Robin Guittard, spokesperson for CCFD-Terre Solidaire: "Since 2014 and the launch of Operation Barkhane, successive French governments have given the impression of trying to escape the necessary democratic control to which any external military operation should be subject in any democratic system. Operation Serval became Barkhane without a vote of Parliament, yet its scope of intervention had expanded and its objectives diversified. The French authorities still seem willing to maintain 2,500 soldiers in a foreign theater of operation without specifying the status under which they are operating. This external operation, which no longer says its name, remains the largest French military contingent deployed outside our borders: it is notably more than the 500 French soldiers present in Romania since 2022 as part of Operation Eagle following the Russian invasion of Ukraine."
For Mathieu Pourchier, spokesman for Tournons La Page: "While the policy conducted by France in the Sahel for 10 years has proven to be largely flawed, it is as if we did not learn the lessons that are required. These include the cruel lack of transparency, debate and democratic control in the decisions and strategies taken by France since 2013. The acceptance of the policy led by France can only be done if it is subject to a minimum of consultation and public debate. This should start by discussing the status, mandate and objectives pursued by the 2,500 military personnel present there."
The change in France's posture in terms of military cooperation (a presence that is intended to be discreet, a logic of accompaniment and co-leadership privileged, etc.) must be an opportunity to demonstrate transparency and to debate in Parliament the evolution of its cooperation operations.
"We call on parliamentarians to play their role of control and supervision of public policies, including when it comes to international issues. While this one is in the midst of a debate on the military programming law, it is an opportunity to question the presence of French forces in the Sahel. And more broadly, to take stock of 10 years of French interventions in this region," says Robin Guittard.