Although France officially declared the end of the military presence of its seven-year Barkhane operation in Africa’s Sahel region decreasing its over 5,000 troops in the coming months, it appears that its forces are still being confronted by further Islamist extremist threats.
The same violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State in the Sahel that saw the international anti-terrorism partner offensive in the area come about, to begin with.
Colonel Stephane Gouvernet, battalion commander for France’s recent Equinoxe mission in northern Mali, said jihadists there were trying to impose Sharia law, enforce a dress code, and ban young children from playing football. A special unit called the Takuba task force that will see the participation of both other European countries and African regional partners will replace the Barkhane force as the new anti-jihadist terrorism and violence initiative to patrol the Sahel. Sahel experts say Paris has been seeking a way out for years and that its strategy was always to manage the problem rather than to dedicate the necessary resources to defeat jihadists. Some locals are fearful of the uncertain near future while others believe peace will finally come with the departure of the former coloniser.
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