Operation Barkhane

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Operation Barkhane
Part of the 2012 Northern Mali conflict, Insurgency in the Maghreb and the War on Terror
Opération Barkhane.jpg
French soldiers of the 126th Infantry Regiment and Malian soldiers, March 17, 2016.
Date1 August 2014 – present
Location
Status Ongoing
Belligerents

 France
G5 Sahel

 Estonia
Supported by:

Nusrat al-Islam (2017–present)
AQIM (2014–present)
Al-Mourabitoun (2014–17)
Ansar Dine (2014–17)
Commanders and leaders

François Hollande (2014–17)
Emmanuel Macron (2017–present)
Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta
Mahamadou Issoufou
Michel Kafando
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz

Idriss Déby

Djamel Okacha
Iyad Ag Ghaly

Mokhtar Belmokhtar
Strength
3,500 French troops[5] 3,000 fighters (all groups)[6]
Casualties and losses
13 killed, 26 wounded [7][8][9][10] 450 killed or captured[11] [12]

Operation Barkhane is an ongoing anti-insurgent operation in Africa's Sahel region, which commenced 1 August 2014.[13] It consists of a 3,000-strong French force, which will be permanent and headquartered in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad.[5] The operation has been designed with five countries, and former French colonies, that span the Sahel: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.[5] These countries are collectively referred to as the "G5 Sahel".[14] The operation is named after a crescent-shaped dune in the Sahara desert.[15]

Background[edit]

As part of the fallout from the Libyan Civil War, instability in northern Mali caused by a Tuareg rebellion against the central Malian government was exploited by Islamist groups who gained control over the northern half of the country. In response, France launched a military operation in January 2013 to stop the Islamist offensive from toppling the Malian government and to re-capture northern Mali.[16] The operation, codenamed Operation Serval, ended in the complete re-capture of all Islamist held territory by the operations conclusion on the 15 July 2014.

French soldiers and VBCIs patrolling near Gao, Mali as part of Operation Serval, in March 2013.

Following the end of Operation Serval, France recognised the need to provide stability in the wider Sahel region by helping the region's various governments combat terrorism. The French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said that France recognised that “there still is a major risk that jihadists develop in the area that runs from the Horn of Africa to Guinea-Bissau.” Therefore Operation Barkhane was launched in order to assure the Sahel nations' security, and in effect France's security. [14] The operation is the successor of Operation Serval, the French military mission in Mali,[15] and Operation Epervier, the mission in Chad.[17]

Aim[edit]

The operation is "to become the French pillar of counterterrorism in the Sahel region."[14] According to French Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the main objective of Operation Barkhane is counter-terrorism:[13] "The aim is to prevent what I call the highway of all forms of traffics to become a place of permanent passage, where jihadist groups between Libya and the Atlantic Ocean can rebuild themselves, which would lead to serious consequences for our security."[18] French President, François Hollande, has said the Barkhane force will allow for a "rapid and efficient intervention in the event of a crisis" in the region.[15] The operation will target Islamist extremists in Mali, Chad and Niger,[13] and will have a mandate to operate across borders.[13]

Forces committed[edit]

French Forces[edit]

The French force is a 3,000-strong counter-terrorism force,[5] with 1,000 soldiers to be deployed indefinitely in Mali. These soldiers will be focused on counter-terrorism operations in northern Mali, with another 1,200 soldiers stationed in Chad, and the remaining soldiers split between a surveillance base in Niger, a bigger permanent base in Ivory Coast, and some special forces in Burkina Faso.[5] According to original plans, the French forces will be supplied with 20 helicopters, 200 armored vehicles, 10 transport aircraft, 6 fighter planes, and 3 drones.[5] French Army Aviation currently have two Aérospatiale SA 330 Puma's in Chad.[19]

The Sahel region.

The division of labor between France and the G5 Sahel has been established by four permanent military bases:[14] (1) headquarters and an air force base in the Chadian capital of N'Djamena (under the leadership of French Général Palasset); (2) a regional base in Gao, north Mali, with at least 1,000 men; (3) a special-forces base in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou; (4) an intelligence base in Niger’s capital, Niamey, with over 300 men. The Niamey air base is strategically important because it hosts drones in charge of gathering intelligence across the entire Sahel-Saharan region.[14] From Niamey, France's troops are supported by two German Transall C-160.[20]

British support[edit]

In March 2016, during the UK-France Summit in Paris, the British government announced that it would consider providing support to Operation Barkhane.[1] British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon then announced that the UK would provide monthly strategic airlift support to French forces in Africa.[2] In July 2018, three RAF Chinook helicopters arrived in Mali to provide logistical and troop movement support to French and other military forces operating in the area. This deployment is in addition to the 90 British troops already deployed in the region. [21]

Estonia[edit]

On March 22, 2018, the Ministry of Defence of Estonia announced its intention to commit up to 50 troops to Mali as part of Operation Barkhane, to be based in Gao, pending approval by the Riigikogu.[22] The unit, named ESTPLA-26 and headed by Maj. Kristjan Karist, was detached from the C Infantry Company of the Scouts Battalion on August 6, and arrived in Mali that same week to be stationed at the French military base in Gao.[23][24]

Operations[edit]

2014[edit]

A French military helicopter over the Nigerien town Madama, which serves as a forward operating base for the French, Niger and Chad armies

Operations commenced 1 August 2014. French Forces sustained their first casualty during a battle in early November 2014, which also resulted in 24 jihadists dead.[11] On 24 November, a French special forces soldier was killed in a Caracal helicopter crash in Burkina Faso.[25] French forces experienced their first major success of Barkhane in December 2014 with the killing of Ahmed al-Tilemsi, the leader of the Al-Mourabitoun jihadist group, by French special forces during a raid in the deserts of northern Mali. [26]

2015[edit]

From 7 to 14 April 2015, French and Nigerien forces carried out an airborne operation in the far north of Niger to search for Jihadists. As part of the operation, 90 French Foreign Legion paratroopers of the 2e REP jumped near the Salvador pass. Two legionnaires were injured during the jump before they were joined by a joint force of Nigerien and French soldiers from the 1st Parachute Hussar Regiment. [27]

On 26 November 2015, a French Air Parachute Commando died in hospital in France as a result of his injuries after being hit by an anti-tank mine on 13 October near Tessalit during a reconnaissance mission. [28]

2016[edit]

On 12 April 2016, three French soldiers were killed when their armored personnel carrier struck a land mine. The convoy of about 60 vehicles was travelling to the northern desert town of Tessalit when it hit the mine.[29] Another French soldier was killed on 4 November 2016 following the explosion of a mine near the town of Abeïbara, making 2016 the deadliest year for French forces participating in Barkhane. [30]

2017[edit]

French soldiers from the Mountain Commando Group inspecting Malian travelers northeast of Gao in June 2017.

On 15 March 2017, French forces arrested eight jihadists in desert north of Timbuktu.[31] On 5 April 2017, master corporal Julien Barbé,[32] was killed in action near Hombori after an explosive device blew up an armoured vehicle.[33] He was posthumously made a knight of the Legion of Honour.[32] Heavy fighting between French forces and Jihadist groups continued into the summer of 2017, with 8 French soldiers being wounded by a mortar attack on their base in Timbuktu on 1 June.[34] On the night of 17 June, France suffered its tenth soldier killed during an airborne operation in the north-east of Mali.[35].

On 4 October 2017, French forces operating as part of Barkhane were the first to respond to the ambush of American soldiers searching for an Islamic State commander on the Niger-Mali border. French air support was requested by the Americans and two hours later Mirage fighter jets arrived from Niamey. Despite the French pilots being unable to engage ground targets due to the proximity of friendly forces, the jets deterrence was enough to end the ambush.[36] A French special forces team were the first ground forces to reach the scene of the ambush, 3-4 hours after the firefight which resulted in the death of 4 American Green Berets.[37]

On 14 October 2017, an Antonov An-26 aircraft operating in support of Operation Barkhane crashed shortly before landing at Félix Houphouët Boigny International Airport, Abidjan, Ivory Coast.[38] Four Moldovan flight crew were killed. Two Moldovan flight crew and four French Army soldiers were injured.[39]

2018[edit]

On 14 February 2018, a French airstrike killed at least 10 Jihadists at the border between Algeria and Mali.[40][41] Two French soldiers from the 1st Spahi Regiment were killed on 21 February 2018 when the armoured vehicle they were travelling in struck a mine between the towns of Gao and Menaka. [42]

On 14 April 2018, JNIM militants launched an attack on a UN base in Timbuktu, wounding several French soldiers before being repelled by French, Malian and American troops. [43] Four French soldiers were seriously wounded by a suicide car bomb attack against a joint French-Malian patrol in Gao on 1 July 2018.[44] The attack, which heavily damaged a number of French VBCI's, also killed 4 civilians and seriously wounded 27 others.[45]

2019[edit]

On 22 February, French forces backed by an armed reaper drone and a helicopter attacked a JNIM convoy killing 11 militants including senior leader Yahia Abou el Hamman in the Tombouctou Region of Mali.[46][47] A militant improvised explosive device struck a French armoured vehicle carrying out an anti-terrorist operation in the Mopti Region on 2 April, killing one French soldier and seriously wounding another.[48]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "UK-France Summit 3 rd March 2016 - Annex on security and defence" (PDF). Ministry of Defence. 3 March 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Defence Secretary secures progress on Brimstone sales as unmanned aircraft project moves forward". Ministry of Defence. 3 March 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2016. And he committed the UK to providing one strategic airlift flight a month to support French forces in their operations against terrorists in Africa.
  3. ^ "Operation FREQUENCE". Forces.gc.ca. National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  4. ^ "The CAF conduct airlift operations in support of French operations in West Africa and the Sahel region". Government of Canada. National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces. 11 November 2016. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "François Hollande's African adventures: The French are reorganising security in an increasingly troubled region". Economist.
  6. ^ "Jihadist threat not as big as you think". CNN. 29 September 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  7. ^ In memoriam, Ministère de la Défense.
  8. ^ "French soldier killed in Mali blast claimed by Islamists". 5 November 2016. Archived from the original on 6 November 2016.
  9. ^ "French army patrol attacked in Mali". Australian Associated Press. 1 July 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  10. ^ "Several French soldiers injured in latest Mali attack - France 24". France 24. 15 April 2018. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  11. ^ a b "French Military Says 24 Jihadists Killed in Mali". ABC News. Retrieved 9 November 2014.
  12. ^ L'armée française a tué "plus d'une trentaine" de jihadistes au Mali, AFP, 23 février 2018.
  13. ^ a b c d France sets up anti-Islamist force in Africa's Sahel, bbc.co.uk.
  14. ^ a b c d e Larivé, Maxime H.A. "Welcome to France's New War on Terror in Africa: Operation Barkhane". nationalinterest.org.
  15. ^ a b c Hollande announces new military operation in West Africa, france24.com.
  16. ^ "BBC News - France Rafale jets target Gao in eastern Mali". BBC. 13 January 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
  17. ^ Opération Barkhane, French Ministry of Defense.
  18. ^ France Launches New Sahel Counter-Terrorism Operation Barkhane, ibtimes.co.uk.
  19. ^ AirForces Monthly. Stamford, Lincolnshire, England: Key Publishing Ltd. November 2015. p. 23.
  20. ^ "Aktuelle Einsätze der Bundeswehr" (in German). Einsatz.bundeswehr.de. 2018-02-17. Retrieved 2018-02-21.
  21. ^ "Three Royal Air Force Chinooks arrive in Mali". UK Defence Journal. 19 July 2018. Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  22. ^ de Cherisey, Erwan (March 28, 2018). "Estonia pledges troops for France's Sahel mission". Jane's Information Group.
  23. ^ "Gallery: Estonian platoon enters service in Mali". Eesti Rahvusringhääling. 10 August 2018. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  24. ^ Hankewitz, Sten (11 August 2018). "An Estonian infantry unit arrives in Mali to fight terrorists". Estonian World.com. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  25. ^ "Un soldat français tué dans un accident d'hélicoptère au Burkina Faso". Le Monde. 30 November 2014. Retrieved 5 August 2018.
  26. ^ "French Forces Kill a Leader of Jihadists in Mali Raid". New York Times. 11 December 2014. Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  27. ^ "Niger: des arrestations lors d'une opération militaire franco-nigérienne". Radio France Internationale. 16 April 2015. Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  28. ^ "Décès d'un soldat des forces spéciales blessé en octobre au Mali". AFP. 26 November 2015. Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  29. ^ France-Presse, Agence (2016-04-13). "Three French soldiers killed in Mali mine blast". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-04-16.
  30. ^ "Mali : un soldat français tué, le groupe Ansar Dine revendique". AFP. 5 November 2016. Retrieved 3 August 2018.
  31. ^ Baba Ahmed. "French forces arrest 8 jihadists in northern Mali: Official". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on 2017-03-17.
  32. ^ a b "Angers Un hommage émouvant au soldat Julien Barbé tué au Mali". Le Courrier de l'ouest. 13 April 2017. Retrieved 7 May 2017.
  33. ^ "French soldier killed in 'clash with terrorists' in Mali". France 24. 6 April 2017.
  34. ^ Mali: attaque à Tombouctou contre les casques bleus et la force Barkhane, RFI, 1 June 2017.
  35. ^ L’Elysée annonce la mort accidentelle d’un soldat français au Mali, Le Monde avec AFP, 18 June 2017.
  36. ^ Lamothe, Dan (23 October 2017). "Caught in a deadly ambush, US troops in Niger waited an hour for French air power to arrive". The Washington Post. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  37. ^ "Pentagon acknowledges a second team was on the ground in Niger". CBS News. 26 October 2017.
  38. ^ "ER-APV Accident description". Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  39. ^ Allen, Ian (October 16, 2017). "French Special Forces were on plane that crashed in Ivory Coast, killing 4". intelNews. Retrieved October 17, 2017. Of the ten people that were on board, four are reportedly dead; six others are seriously hurt. Reports said that the four dead passengers were all Moldovan nationals. Two other Moldovans and four French nationals were injured.
  40. ^ "French forces kill at least 10 jihadists in Mali: military sources". Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  41. ^ "French forces kill at least 10 jihadists in Mali: military sources". Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  42. ^ "Two French soldiers were killed after their armoured vehicle was hit by an explosive device in Mali, the French president's office said on Wednesday". France 24. 3 March 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  43. ^ "Mali: 15 militants killed in Timbuktu attack". news.com.au. Retrieved 2018-04-17.
  44. ^ "French army patrol attacked in Mali". Australian Associated Press. 1 July 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  45. ^ "Mali car bombing kills 4 civilians, wounds 31 others, including soldiers". Australian Associated Press. 1 July 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018.
  46. ^ "French forces kill senior jihadist leader in Mali - Xinhua | English.news.cn". www.xinhuanet.com. Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  47. ^ "French forces kill JNIM deputy leader El Hamame in Mali, Parly says". The Defense Post. 2019-02-22. Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  48. ^ "French military doctor killed in Mali". Associated Press. 2 April 2019. Retrieved 4 April 2019.