Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Terrorism, Sahel, France, Mali | Homeland Security Newswire

Thirteen French soldiers were killed Monday in a helicopter crash in Mali. The accident has drawn attention to France’s on-going involvement in counterterrorism operations in the Sahel region – a vast, arid, and largely unpopulated region south of the Sahara which covers an area the size of Europe and which has seen an alarming increase in Islamist terrorist activities.
Thirteen French soldiers were killed Monday in a helicopter crash in Mali. The accident has drawn attention to France’s on-going involvement in counterterrorism operations in the Sahel region.
France has deployed its military to Mali on 11 January 2013, after Tuareg separatists joined with al Qaeda-affiliated local Islamists – known as Ansar Dine – in the spring of 2012 to create the breakaway Republic of Azawad in northern Mali.
The French antiterrorist campaign, known as the “Serval” operation, included 1,700 commandos accompanied by planes and helicopters. France decided to intervene in Mali after the Islamists spread out of Azawad and began to move toward the country’s capital Bamako.
On 1 August 2014 the French forces a joint regional military campaign to root out Islamist terrorism from the vast Sahel region. The new initiative, called G5 Sahel (G5 du Sahel), was a framework created by France and five countries in region — Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad – to launch a Sahel-wide campaign, called the “Barkhane” operation, aiming to fight Islamists throughout the arid largely unpopulated region. France has increased the number of its troops in the region from 1,700 to 4,500.
The size of the western Sahel region, which the Barkhane operation was supposed to keep free of Islamists, is equal to the size of Europe.
Since 2013, forty-one soldiers have been killed in counterterrorism operations in the Sahel.
Le Figaro reports that the G5 Sahel framework which France and the five African countries agreed to in August 2014 was enhanced in November 2015, when the leaders of the six countries agreed to create a joint military force to fight the Jihadist groups in the region.
The joint military force saw some early success, but it has been dogged from the start by problems relating to financing, organization, staffing, and leadership. Moreover, the militaries of several countries, especially Burkina Faso, have been accused of heavy handedness and excessive violence in dealing with the civilian population.
Le Monde notes that the Barkhane operation is not the only security measure taken by Sahel countries in their effort to fight the Islamists.
On 25 April 2013, the UN Security Council authorized the establishment of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), a force of 13,000 peacekeepers deployed to the region beginning 1 July 2013. MINUSMA is funded and monitored by the International Support Mission in Mali (MISMA), which was created by the Economic Community of States of West Africa (ECOWAS).
In February 2013, the EU created the European Training Mission of the Malian Army (EUTM Mali). EUTM Mali deploys about 600 soldiers from the 28 EU countries to Mali, where they train the Malian military and provide intelligence and logistical support, but do not take part in the fighting against the jihadists.

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