Tony Chafer is Professor of French and African Studies at the University of Portsmouth
On Sunday France announced it was increasing its military presence in the Sahel by adding a further 600 troops to its 4,500-strong operation in Mali and four other countries in the region. This is in addition to the 220 extra troops for the region that Macron announced at a G5 Sahel summit which he hosted in Pau last month. The announcement came as France tries to contain a rise in violence that has increased insecurity across the region.
With this announcement France is seeking to underline its regional commitment, having lost 13 of its own troops in a helicopter collision last November.
Part of the reason for the increase is no doubt to keep up pressure on France’s European allies to mobilise troops and resources in support of the French mission in the Sahel, Operation Barkhane. Paris is also putting pressure on the US not to draw down its military presence in the region, which it has indicated it wishes to do. Defence minister Florence Parly returned last week from a visit to the US where she asked for Washington’s support in “burden sharing” in the Sahel.
Macron is also under pressure from senior military figures, who are calling for a change of strategy and increased resources if Operation Barkhane is to succeed. His own Chief of Staff, General Francois Lecointre, told a parliamentary committee last November that current troop levels were inadequate for such a large expanse of territory.