French President Emmanuel Macron has announced the end of its Barkhane anti-jihadist mission in Africa after over a decade, saying a new strategy would be worked out with African partners.
Delivering a keynote speech on military policy in the southern French city of Toulon on Wednesday, President Macron announced the decision – in coordination with France’s partners – “to make official today the end of the Barkhane operation”.
The move, he said, was the “consequence of what we have experienced” in recent months and a new strategy would be worked out within the next six months.
France also plans to revamp its partnerships and operations in Africa, where its forces have been trying to help local governments contain Islamist insurgencies in the Sahel region for the past decade.
“Over the coming months we must determine how to profoundly change our methods and our commitments alongside our African partners… which should lead to lighter and more integrated deployment with them,” the French leader added.
Breakdown of Franco-Malian relations
French forces have faced growing hostility from some who see them as the ineffective occupying force of a former colonial power, and Macron pulled them out of Mali this year as relations soured with the country’s military rulers.
Around 3,000 French solders remain in Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger, though Macron plans to end the decade-long Barkhane operation as part of the strategic overhaul.
He underlined, however, that France’s military support for countries in the region “will continue but based on new principles that we will have defined with them”.
Re-setting European military cooperation
Macron also announced that Britain and France will hold a summit in the first quarter of 2023 aimed at reinforcing their military and defence cooperation.
Macron unveiled the summit while also laying out his strategic defence priorities for France and Europe in the coming years – not least in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the growing international assertiveness of China.
“Our partnership with the United Kingdom must also be raised to another level,” he said, adding,”I hope that we will actively resume our dialogue on operations, capacities, nuclear and hybrid areas and renew the ambitions of our two countries as friends and allies.”
France is banking on a reset with Britain under its new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, following years of tense relations under Boris Johnson and later Liz Truss.
Macron also insisted on the need for deeper military cooperation with Germany, an “indispensable partner” for building up Europe’s military autonomy.