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The military pillar of the G5 Sahel is growing in power, Takuba too. The enemy GISM number 1 (v2)

(B2) On the eve of the N'Djamena summit on the Sahel, it is useful to return to the military pillar of the effort undertaken by France and the European allies. A pillar that has progressed well in one year, if we listen to the French officials

Task force Takuba (credit: DICOD / EMA)

The rise of Sahelian forces

On the French side, we assure you: “ a lot of things have been done ».

Fragility but progress

Admittedly, the Sahelian armies remain still fragile ” in general, but their commitment is “ undeniably increased ". They have " progress ". The G5 Sahel joint force now aligns seven battalions and “ maybe eight with the prospect of the deployment of a Chadian battalion ". So 5000 men. These armies know still difficulties recognizes a soldier. You don't have to " evade it ". But we seek to mitigate ».

A capacity for operation and resilience

The force was able to carry out operations in particular: Samar 1 and Samar 2, planned in close coordination with Barkhane » and international forces (Minusma). Today, " they are capable of defending their positions, they have shown this on several occasions over the past months. They are capable of reacting at their own levels. They know how to coordinate among themselves, and coordinate with international forces ". Short " their empowerment ” — objective set by France and the Europeans in the G5 Sahel —, “ progressing ". A joint theater PC in Bamako was set up under the leadership of General Namata a year and a half ago.

The Malian army in recomposition

Point of satisfaction for the French: the Malian army (the FAMA). “ The high command has remobilised. And the units were able to strengthen. » This despite the suspension of EUTM due to Covid-19 and the coup d’état. If no one dares to say it, the coup d'état effect seems erased (or even positive)... We see " the rise in power of light reconnaissance and investigation units »: ULRI 1 in Gossi, one in Ménaka, a third in Gao. These ULRIs” have carried out operations, in a national or multinational framework, even with the European units of Task Force Takuba (NB: that of Ménaka). The Malian forces which had to abandon certain positions in 2019 “ return ". In Labbezanga, the military post could be built. " Other projects are coming »: in Indelimane, Anderaboukane. The air is not forgotten. The Malians “ bring in their air force when a position is attacked ».

Nigerien forces in formation

The Nigerien armed forces, they continue the training of special intervention battalions ". France forms a battalion in Dosso. Germany and Belgium also works on special forces.

Coordination of forces better assured

This is an important point acquired since the Pau summit according to the French authorities. A joint command mechanism has been set up in Niamey near the central zone headquarters of the joint force. Mechanism “ regularly appear used to coordinate the various operations, national, of the joint force or of Barkhane. It is supported by an intelligence fusion cell “ by which the different armies exchange information on the adversary ". Essential according to the military.

The arrival of Europeans within Task Force Takuba

Takuba's concept is the right one

The European force is also slowly growing in strength in the Three Borders area. In addition to the Estonians, the Czechs, the Swedes, the Italians must " start to unfold from March 2021”. The rhythm is progressive, of course ". A euphemism for slow. But the concept, which is based not on direct combat, but support (mentoring) of Malians in Liptako is “ good ". He " attracts European partners ».

Eight additional countries eventually

Other contingents could arrive in the coming months (or years). Denmark, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands should come “ in support ", with quotas " lesser " without a doubt. But they " will come », we affirm in a confident tone at the Élysée. Other European countries have “ announced their interest and willingness to engage in this operation ". A contribution announced in a manner more or less firm » by the heads of state or prime ministers of four countries: Greece (2), Hungary, Serbia (3), even Ukraine. Each contribution could then amount to “ to a few dozen, or even almost a hundred » staff.

8000 engaged soldiers

This is the new figure publicly defended. There are 8000 Europeans engaged in the Sahel, it is claimed in Paris. This figure includes the 5100 French soldiers in Barkhane and around 3000 Europeans invested in four missions (MINUSMA, EUTM Mali, Barkhane and Takuba or bilateral actions). Or a third of the workforce (read: How many European soldiers are present in the Sahel? How many are in Barkhane? (v3)).

  • NB: a figure which has a double interest: to show that it is not France, which intervenes, on a historical basis, but all of Europe, in the name of a common interest. Then, allow more flexible developments in France, to avoid an image of disengagement. Whatever the adjustment, there will remain a public figure of 8000 personnel.

A readjustment of Barkhane: for later?

The reflection on the readjustment of Barkhane is " projects “, we specify near the Elysée. But it might not be announced at the summit, but later. The modalities will be discussed “ over the next few weeks [or] months ". European and Sahelian partners will be associated closely ».

A tactical turn

In Pau, in January 2020, the desire to concentrate military efforts against the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, in the three-border area, was affirmed. Today, the objective is to further target another armed group, the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (called RVIM or GSIM or JNIM in Arabic), led by Iyad Ag-Gahli and affiliated with Al Qaeda.

One objective: the RVIM

It is " the main threat, the strongest ". In one area in particular: the Gourma ", where he " has taken action in recent weeks ". A region straddling several borders (Mali, Burkina Faso) which literally means “the right bank of the Niger River”. But the RVIM is also active “ in the far north of Mali "or especially" in the center, with the Katiba Macina ».

The Islamic State, losing momentum

Explanation, coming from a soldier: the EIGS “ is on the decline ". He " no longer takes action against the Sahelian forces. At least, no more major actions. There are no more major attacks on military posts. These groups are dispersed and only act in very small elements”. Rather, they practice an avoidance strategy "as it has been observed" since January 2020 ". The fratricidal struggles with other armed groups, notably the RVIM, have weakened it (4).

The fight against the Katiba Macina in central Mali

We need to strengthen the pressure on the group called 'Katiba Macina'", whose main area of ​​activity is central Mali. This is the third part of the strategy which should be defined in N'Djamena (with the consolidation of action in the Three Borders and the RVIM). This pressure will be reinforced with the progressive operationalization of the 'western zone' of the G5 Sahel joint force. A part that “ so far we have failed to implement », we recognize at the Élysée.

…with the strengthening of the 'West' zone

The " reactivation of military dialogue between Mauritania and Mali » gives us hope for change. It will be up to the Malian and Mauritanian forces to act. The PC of this zone is in Mauritania. It is not expected that Barkhane's troops will be deployed in this region. Operation Barkhane could just provide “general support” by upstream means or other means, for example aerial.

The disarmament of the militias

As for the disarmament of self-defense militias in central Mali, the objective of the Pau summit, “ we are indeed far from the mark » today recognizes our interlocutor. Hence the importance of having a return from the State in this region.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

  1. Witnesses to this commitment are two operations. Operation Bourrasque, at the end of 2020, especially in October, which mobilized 3000 soldiers, almost half (1400) provided by Niger and Mali. Operation Eclipse in January with approximately the same number of men (3000), including 1000 Malians, Nigeriens and Burkinabés.
  2. A few dozen no more according to our information, in support or logistics.
  3. This is undoubtedly medical support according to our information.
  4. The EIGS had a composition more homogeneous “, more organized, with “ different katibas or different groups ". Which apparently harmed it compared to a more 'plastic' organized RVIM. This group has a certain diversity made up of people from different backgrounds " and is " geographically much larger ».

(updated) Additional information on the action in the Western zone

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

One thought on “The military pillar of the G5 Sahel is growing in power, Takuba too. The enemy GISM number 1 (v2)"

  • CISSE born NGUYEN V AN ROT Hélène

    This evolution of the military pillar of the G5 Sahel, in particular with regard to the progress, even timid, of the Takuba force is positive.
    A reorientation towards the GSIM makes it possible to better take into account the role and impact of endogenous African actors, in particular in the areas where the groups making up this gathering of armed jihadist groups operate in the G5 Sahel countries, with a focal point on the center of Mali but a clear strategy of extension towards other African countries.
    But as long as the pillars on which the strategies and tactics of the jihadists of the GSIM are based, allowing them to develop their military, political and social influence over increasingly large areas and populations, have not been fully integrated by the forces of the G5 Sahel and their support (Barkhane, Takuba, Minusma) in their intervention, their gains will be limited to occasional successes of military tactics while the influence of jihadist terrorists and other armed groups will continue to gain ground in areas and on populations, making any lasting stabilization, refoundation and reconstruction on solid and holistic foundations of the Sahelian States and their society, in all their illusory components, in particular in Mali.
    This cannot be the sole business of a partnership between French, European and African military forces, particularly Malian ones. How can we explain that local African recruitment into jihadist and other armed groups, resorting to terrorism, continues to gain ground and establish itself, even take root, particularly in central Mali and certain parts of the North. The concept of TAKUBA special forces must imperatively integrate the recruitment and training of African special forces from the region concerned by the interventions. Only a holistic human security vision and approach integrating socio-political, state and non-state components can achieve these goals.
    Me Hélène NGUYEN CISSE
    Lawyer and international consultant based in Senegal for 40 years,
    Specialized in Defense and Strategy (Centre for Diplomatic and Strategic Studies Dakar, strategy and defense option) 1999/2000
    CAS certified (Certified Antiterrorist Specialist – ATAB (Anti Terrorist Accreditation Board USA 2018)
    Practicing at the International Criminal Court (ICC) as lead counsel for Darfur victims before the ICC
    Teacher for 20 years (Faculty of Law of Dakar, ENAM and ENA Dakar)

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