France intensifies intervention in West Africa with launch of Sahel G5 force
18 November 2017
The Sahel, which has been devastated by the 2011 NATO war in Libya and the resulting French war in Mali starting in 2013, is facing a new military escalation as France steps up its deployments in the strategic, resource-rich region in its former colonial empire.
The new regional force set up by Paris, the Sahel G5—comprising Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad—carried out its first operation, code-named Haw Bi (“Black Cow”) from October 27 to November 11 in the border region between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. The G5 force operated in coordination with French troops and the MINUSMA, the 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in Mali. It carried out patrols aimed at ethnic Tuareg or Islamist fighters hostile to Paris and the Malian central government in Bamako.
“This operation has the character of a try-out,” said the G5 force’s commander, Malian General Didier Dacko. According to French army sources, the “territorial control” operation was carried out by 350 soldiers from Burkina Faso, 200 from Niger and 200 from Mali.
Since his election in May, French President Emmanuel Macron has pushed to intensify the war launched by his predecessor, François Hollande, in France’s former colonial empire, amid growing geostrategic tensions between Europe, the United States, and China. On July 2, Macron attended a summit of the G5 states in Bamako. The summit formally inaugurated the new force, which officially includes around 5,000 troops in total furnished by the countries of the alliance.
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