Macron ends France’s Africa mission, considers new strategy

Macron ends France’s Africa mission, considers new strategy


French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Wednesday that France was ending its Barkhane anti-jihadi mission in Africa after more than a decade, and said a new strategy was being worked out with African partners.

The statement came in a wide-ranging speech reviewing France’s strategy, in which the President also underscored the importance of its nuclear deterrent and its ties with Germany and the UK despite recent tensions.

Macron laid out his strategic defense priorities for France in Europe and Africa over the coming years, not least in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a growing Chinese international assertiveness.

“I have decided, in coordination with our partners, to make the end of the Barkhane operation official today,” Macron said in the military-political keynote address to senior generals and diplomats aboard a helicopter carrier at the Mediterranean naval base in Toulon.

The move is the “consequence of what we have experienced over the past few months” and a new strategy will be worked out within the next six months, he added.

“Our military support for African countries will continue, but according to new principles that we have defined with them,” Macron said.

– No ‘unlimited’ bet –

He indicated that the future strategy would be based on much closer cooperation with African armies to make France’s own deployment easier and more dynamic.

French forces are facing growing hostility from some who see them as an ineffective occupying force from a former colonial power, and Macron withdrew troops from Mali this year as relations with the country’s military rulers soured.

Around 3,000 French soldiers remain in Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger. There are no immediate plans to reduce the number.

Macron said exchanges would begin in the coming days with African nations and regional organizations and allies “to change the status, format and mission” of French bases in Africa.

“It would be better for our interventions to be time-limited from the start. We don’t want to stay involved in foreign operations indefinitely,” he said.

The French deployment began in 2013 when jihadists seized much of northern Mali before being repelled.

But the rebels regrouped and soon the region was under attack by other Islamist insurgents who are now looking to push south toward the Gulf of Guinea, experts say.

– ‘Indispensable Partner’ –

He announced that Britain and France will hold a summit in the first quarter of 2023 to strengthen their military and defense cooperation, a fresh sign of a fresh start under new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

“Our partnership with Great Britain must also be taken to another level,” said Macron.

“I hope that we will actively resume our dialogue on operations, capabilities, nuclear and hybrid areas, and renew the ambitions of our two countries as friends and allies.”

Macron also stressed the need for deeper military cooperation with Germany and an “essential partner” for building Europe’s military autonomy.

The two countries have agreed to work on next-generation fighter jets and tanks in particular, but both projects have reportedly stalled over disagreements over technical requirements and how to split production.

“I think the success of the European project depends to a large extent on the balance of our partnership,” Macron said.

“I hope that we can make decisive progress in the coming weeks.”

– Nuclear Deterrence –

Macron added that the French nuclear deterrent has helped Europe’s security, after recent comments sparked controversy over the circumstances under which France would use its nuclear weapons.

“Today, even more than yesterday, France’s vital interests have a European dimension. Our nuclear forces therefore, by their very existence, contribute to the security of France and Europe,” he said.

“Don’t forget that France has a nuclear deterrent and don’t dramatize a few remarks,” he added.

In an October interview, Macron expressed doubts about whether France would consider a counterattack if Russia were to attack Ukraine with a tactical nuclear weapon.

“Our (nuclear) doctrine is based on what we call the fundamental interests of the nation and they are very clearly defined. ‘ he then told the France 2 broadcaster.

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