Submitted by Andrew Smith…
An attack on a military base in Northern Mali on April 6 has killed at least 25 Malien soldiers. In response eight ‘assailants’, presumed Al-Qaeda affiliates, were ‘neutralised’. This newest loss in the French and United Nations backed campaign comes on the heels of the first cases of Covid-19 amongst French soldiers serving in operation Barkhane. Four soldiers tested positive for the novel Coronavirus on April 2nd, three of which were sent back to France while one is quarantined in place. Other soldiers have shown symptoms and await testing. The onslaught of the virus could be a major setback in France’s lengthy campaign which has had a catastrophic year thus far.
On Monday, March 9 at least 43 people were killed by gunmen in Northern Burkina Faso. In an area of Africa increasingly plagued by the Sahel branches of both Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, It may come as a surprise to know that this attack was carried out by militants seeking to punish those who have offered shelter to the aforementioned extremist groups. Increasing violence in Burkina Faso comes only months after France implemented the extension of their military campaign in Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Chad and Niger.
Many in Burkina Faso see the French insurgency as a neo-colonial strategy to protect first and foremost the mining industry interests of the French elite, while the safety of the people comes secondary, if at all. This anti-French sentiment is shared by their neighbors in Mali where large protests in January offered a snapshot of the general distrust in the French military presence and the puppet master of West African politics, the French president and champion of the neo-liberal expansionist cause: Emmanuel Macron.
The disillusioned people of the Sahel are increasingly weary of a government that they welcomed to the region nearly six years ago after the rise of violence from various extremist groups.
The attack in Burkina Faso came less than a week after a rocket launcher attack at a military checkpoint in central Mali which resulted in the death of five Malian soldiers. This extended chaos comes just one month after Macron’s increase of French troops from 4500 to 5100. Could this troop surge really be an attempt to quell the humanitarian disaster, which saw the death of over 300 civilians and the internal displacement of 50,000 Malian’s in 2019 alone? Or a ploy to keep satiated the gold-hungry French elite.
French domestic approval of the long standing Operation Barkhane took a serious blow in November of 2019 when France lost 13 soldiers in a helicopter crash in Mali during the pursuit of militant forces. This was the largest loss of life for French military personnel in 36 years. This tragic loss of life reinvigorated the conversation in France concerning the prospect of eradicating an ideology from a foreign land. The French critique draws greatly on the obvious comparison of Operation Barkhane to the American war in Afghanistan which is soon to enter its 19th year.
All the while France, one of the world’s most taxed nations, is due to pump over 60 billion dollars into military spending in 2020. While the issues of the French people are largely ignored, Macron seeks to lead an imaginary EU army with a nuclear arsenal aimed at no one. With an ever dwindling approval rating now hovering around 33 percent coupled with the Corona Virus fueled French financial market disaster—which just took its largest fall in history—it will be increasingly baffling to see Macron attempt to make gains in the French ‘War on Terror’.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.