Special forces made available by European countries are expected to be deployed in Mali in 2020 in support of the national army in its fight against the expanding jihadism, said Tuesday the place the French Minister of Armies Florence Parly.
The unit will be called Takuba (« saber » in Tamasheq, Tuareg language), echoing on behalf of the Saber Task Force, the special forces of the Barkhane mission deployed in Mali, she said.
It was in front of Barkhane’s soldiers in Gao, a large French base in northeastern Mali, that Ms. Parly exposed France’s effort to convince her European allies to send special forces to the Sahel to participate, in a probable role of instructors, in the combat accompaniment of the national armies, beginning with the Malian army.
« By 2020, the special forces of European countries will be deployed in Mali alongside the French special forces to transmit an exceptional know-how » to Malian units, said Ms. Parly, arrived Monday in the subregion prey to the spread of jihadist violence.
Mrs. Parly, whose trip to Gao was kept secret until the last moment as the insecurity is great in the area, told AFP that the case was well underway but had to fulfill certain political conditions in the countries concerned .
« We solicited a dozen countries and collected mostly positive feedback. They remain subordinate to a political agreement « , most often from the national parliament, she said, while declaring itself » optimistic « .
For France, militarily committed in Mali since 2013 and present today in the Sahel-Saharan band with the 4,500 soldiers of Barkhane, the rise of local armies against jihadists affiliated with the group Islamic State (EI) or Al-Qaeda. Qaeda is a prerequisite for any early disengagement.
The vulnerability of the Malian army was credibly enlightened on Friday when 49 of its soldiers were killed in an attack claimed by ISIS near Niger. These are the heaviest losses suffered by the Malian army for years. A month earlier, 40 soldiers were killed in a double jihadist attack near the Burkina Faso border.
« Long-term » fight
Ms. Parly’s displacement was further darkened by the death of a French soldier on Saturday and continued attacks in Burkina Faso. The laying of the craft craft that killed the French soldier was also claimed by ISIS.
Despite the presence of French, African and UN forces, the deterioration of the security situation and the setbacks reinforce doubts about the ability of the Malian army to deal with jihadist acts and other violence to which this vast country has fallen prey since 2012 and that have made thousands of deaths, civilians and fighters.
The spread of violence from northern Mali to the center, then to Burkina Faso – where Ms. Parly went on Monday – and neighboring Niger alarms all concerned. Mrs. Parly announced Monday the launch the same day of a Barkhane operation with the cooperation of the Burkinabe army in this zone known as the three borders.
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta said Monday evening that the very existence of his country was « at stake ». He declared the support of foreign forces « more than ever necessary ».
Speaking to some journalists after being received by the Malian head of state, Mrs. Parly affirmed the « determination » of France.
She acknowledged that « the security situation (was) obviously difficult ». Referring to local expressions of rejection of the presence of foreign forces, she said it was « natural for citizens to question ».
But, she added, « the fight against terrorism is a long struggle. A war is not evaluated at every battle that is waged « . She reported on « great progress » made by the Malian forces.
« Nothing would be worse than giving terrorists the right track by lowering their guard, » she said.