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Based in Berlin, Africom, the command for Africa, has more than 6,000 troops. This foreign operation is mainly oriented towards the Horn of Africa, but it also plays an essential role in the Sahel, because the Americans support the French anti-terrorist operation Barkhane.
In all, Africom represents only 3% of US military capabilities in foreign operations. But for Barkhane (see box below), this commitment is essential, as recalled by Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces, heard last week by the defense commission of the National Assembly …
« The United States provides us with extremely valuable support for supplies, for transport, especially for drone intelligence. And so from this point of view, we approach the discussions with the new American administration by having secured this support for the Barkhane force and the Sahel. »
To strengthen their intelligence capabilities in the Sahel, the Americans inaugurated in 2019 a drone base in Agadez in northern Niger. But their presence, like that of other foreign armed forces, is increasingly contested. Moussa Tchangari is the secretary general of the Nigerien association Alternative Espace Citoy …
« The presence of external military forces has not shown its effectiveness in the fight against armed groups. She too alienating for the country, so we want there to be a change in this area. Hoping that if there is a different interlocutor from Donald Trump, maybe what the Sahelians say will be heard. »
In total, the French air force has ten intelligence and strike drones, the Americans have more than 200.
Towards a revision of the strategy in Somalia?
Another major region of American military strategy in Africa: the Horn, to the east of the continent. Several urgent issues for the stability of the region await the Democratic administration.
Ethiopia and its war in Tigray are probably the first emergency that the Biden administration will have to address. The fighting has been going on since early November. 4.5 million people are threatened with famine. For researcher Rashid Abdi, Washington will have to put pressure on Addis Ababa.
« Messages from the Trump administration have been complacent about the outbreak of war in Tigray. The Ethiopians saw this as a green light. It encouraged Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. But things did not go as planned. The situation is chaotic today. However, the Americans are the only ones to have influence over Ethiopia. Joe Biden, who knows the area, thanks to his experience in international relations. I think he will be more nuanced and that his administration will quickly exert pressure on Addis Ababa. »
Another current issue: Somalia. By order of Donald Trump, the some 700 American soldiers deployed on the spot have left the country for a few days. This contingent formed elite Somali troops, with support in intelligence and logistics. For Rashid Abdi, their withdrawal is a mistake.
« The Somali army has lost an ally that formed it. We risk seeing the government politicize the security sector. This withdrawal is seen as a victory for the Shebab Islamists. I think the Biden administration will revisit this. Not necessarily with a complete return of the troops. But with a new, more effective strategy in Somalia. »
Globally too, the researcher hopes that Washington will invest again in the defense of human rights in a region where several regimes are hardening, as in Tanzania, Ethiopia or Somalia.
■ Emmanuel Macron evokes a “ adjustment »French forces in the Sahel and calls on the United States to re-engage in the Middle East
Emmanuel Macron presented his wishes to the armies this Tuesday, January 19 in Brest. For the first time, he referred to a possible downward resizing of French troops in the Sahel, asserting that ” The results are in “. And the Head of State recalled, during his wishes to the armies, that the reinforcements of 600 men decided last year in Pau were ” temporary “. The subject of a reorganization of the Barkhane force which currently comprises a little more than 5,000 soldiers will therefore be on the table in February in N’Djamena at the G5 Sahel summit, a summit in which Emmanuel Macron said he would participate … .
« 2020 was a year of results, in the three border area, in the fight against terrorism, and around the different pillars defined in Pau: strengthening Sahelian military capacities, consolidating the return of States; In this respect, I welcome the initial operational certification of Task Force Tacouba, and the growing number of European countries joining it. In a few weeks, I will be present in Ndjamena for a new summit, structuring decisions, with a course that remains unchanged: stability and victory against the terrorists. »
Ambition therefore of a victory against the terrorists of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group in the Sahel, but also in Syria where France fears a possible resurgence of Daesh. Emmanuel Macron said he hoped that the arrival of US President Joe Biden would mark a ” re-engagement Of the United States in this part of the world.