The newspaper Le Monde revealed in a report that the French army is trying to change its philosophy by being present quietly and strictly respecting the demands of the partner African country, considering it a necessary change after the French soldiers left Mali. as part of Operation Barkhane under pressure from the military council which called on the Wagner group. The Russian army, despite its denials, and the request from neighboring Burkina Faso last January to withdraw French special forces from its territory while he is within reach of “Wagner”.
This joint operation is seen as a symbol of the new approach that French President Emmanuel Macron wants to use for France’s mission in the Sahel region.
To mitigate criticism of the military presence of the former colonial power in Africa, Macron ordered strict compliance with the specific requirements of the countries concerned and a lower noise level. This is apparently what Paris wants to enforce in Niger, which in return receives 1,500 French soldiers on its soil to help deal with the threat of the terrorist organization “ISIS”.
“Le Monde” quoted the commander of the French forces in the Sahel, General Bruno Baratz, as saying that “in Niger and even everywhere in Africa, today the philosophical position differs from what it was in Mali”.
Niger tests France
And the American expert, Michael Churkin, considers that “Niger is a laboratory for the French army for its renewed approach”.
This was explained by former French Ambassador to Mali, Congo, Senegal and Gambia (2002-2006), Nicholas Norman, to Sky News Arabia, where he said: “France was carrying out its own war against terrorists in the region parallel to what the Malian armed forces were doing.” “Today, you want to do otherwise. Remain in the second line, fully integrate with the Nigerian military while the leadership remains in the hands of Niger, which is the master of the ground and the needs.
On the other hand, he pointed out that a whole generation of French soldiers has tracked terrorist groups for a decade in the sands of the Sahel, in much more independent circumstances than they are today with Niger, adding: “However, they did not achieve significant successes on the ground, they only recorded tactical victories depicted in Preventing Terrorists from Spreading to Other Towns and Villages, while the Liberated Towns did not were able to extend their authority over the financial administration and did not address the root causes of terrorism, in addition to the fact that those responsible for the “Barkhane” operation communicated on their own without referring to the financial authorities, and it is a violation of the sovereignty of the country, so many reasons which pushed the financial population to demand the departure of France.
Niger seems satisfied with its participation in the reinforcement of its armed forces, supposed to reach 50,000 soldiers in 2025, then 100,000 in 2030, as confirmed by the former Nigerian Minister of Defense (2016-2019) Kala Mutari, according to the Article of the “World” which congratulated the country for this partnership.
“The French bring us military training, equipment, intelligence and air assets that we lack. We must take advantage of their presence and that of other partners, because the threat is increasingly rooted in the center and the east of Mali and extends into Niger,” Mutari said. .
“Le Monde” indicates, quoting Colonel Fabien, assistant to the combat partnership, that the areas of cooperation have already extended to the airspace, and he underlines: “There was a transformation after the withdrawal of Mali. French drones and fighter jets fly daily from Niamey to support Niger’s operations on the ground.” .
Through this move, the French reinforced their presence in Niger, which previously served as a transit base for operations in Mali.
The Franco-Nigerian “Al Mahaw” operation in the Tillabéri region has already had positive effects, says Colonel Grégoire Cervent, commander of the French air base in Niamey: “We have gone from 33% of the agricultural land in this region a year ago to 65 percent today.This region is considered a priority because it is the food basket of the country.
Niger’s success and France’s failure
On the other hand, General Baratz added that cooperation works better because “Niger has a particularly effective counter-insurgency strategy”, which aims to “secure the population and allow the return of the State to areas disputed by terrorist groups. “.
And because his military philosophy is bearing fruit, the former French ambassador believes that France’s chances of success in Niger are “slim”, and that the reason, according to him, is “the ability of the authorities to impose their control over their liberated towns and their continuous search for ways to negotiate with the leaders of local groups – these two things were not available in Mali – in addition to unfavorable structural factors: a very poor country and a population explosion, given that Niger has the highest birth rate in the world, as well as widespread unemployment and illiteracy, the two main reasons that drive young people to extremism.
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