French President Emmanuel Macron’s anti-Islamist drive is gaining a lot of momentum now. Till now, Macron’s campaign against radicalism was centred around cracking down on radical organisations within France, apart from challenging Turkish President Erdoğan’s political Islam. But now, Macron is also looking to wipe out Islamist terrorism from Africa’s Sahel region.
Macron’s anti-Islamist drive in Africa is driven by a couple of terror attacks against French interests in the conflict-ridden Sahel region. Last week, three French soldiers died in Mali when their armoured vehicle was struck by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). In another terror attack, two other French soldiers also lost their lives. Such terror attacks are provoking the French political establishment, and now the Macron administration might look to crack down hard on Islamist terror in the region.
Following the attack on a French armoured vehicle, Macron recalled his country’s determination to “pursue the fight against terrorism” in the Sahel region. French Defence Minister Florence Parly also said that the soldiers were operating “in an area where terrorist groups are attacking civilians and threatening the regional stability.”
France has been running Operation Barkhane to rid the Sahel region of Islamist terrorism. France has deployed around 5,100 troops, including 600 troops sent in as reinforcements, under Operation Barkhane. Paris has been looking to combat al-Qaeda, Daesh and affiliated terror outfits in the region along with the G5 Sahel countries- Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad.
Till now, France’s counter-terror operations in Mali and other Western African/ Sahel region countries was driven by a desire to protect its own interests in the region. The Sahel, which is dominated by social strife and terrorism today, was once a sphere of competition between European powers. Many countries in the region were French colonies. Even though French colonialism ended in the 1950s, Paris retained most of its bases and influence over the Sahel region.
Anyhow, Paris wasn’t ready to let Islamist terror outfits jeopardise French interests in the Sahel region. Therefore, Operation Barkhane was launched in 2013. But now, we are looking at a direct clash between the French military and Islamist terrorism in the Sahel region.
France has lost blood in Western Africa, and now it isn’t going to let the terror outfits go scot-free. In fact, after the death of five soldiers, the French Prime Minister and Defence Minister visited Chad, where Barkhane forces are deployed. This was a signal of the French government’s support to soldiers stationed in the conflict-ridden region.
Macron’s Minister of Armed Forces – Florence Parly has herself ruled out any negotiations with terror outfits “which murder indiscriminately and have blood on their hands.”
She however hinted at readiness to engage those who have “laid down their arms and who are not motivated by a radical and criminal ideology,” under the 2015 framework of Algiers agreement for peace and reconciliation that remains unimplemented.
Anti-Macron elements in the leftist media have been criticising Operation Barkhane. Yet, Parly has brushed aside such criticism. The message coming from Paris is loud and clear- there will be no negotiations with radical terrorism in the Sahel region. The French military will annihilate them completely. Macron is fighting radical terror in all parts of the world, and his next destination is the troubled Sahel region.