Some 50 French soldiers have died in a mission that has shifted from initially quelling a Tuareg rebellion in Mali’s north, to fighting a broader jihadist insurgency in central Sahel under Operation Barkhane. The French for the first time since the 2013 deployment want the Mali mission to end, VOA reported. French and Sahel forces face mounting public anger for civilian casualties and a military-heavy approach.
“If nothing is done differently, the situation is going to continue to deteriorate,” said Ornella Moderan, Sahel program head for the Institute for Security Studies policy center, who calls for a sea-change in tactics beyond “just chasing the bad guys,” according to the VOA report.
Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad, Niger, and Mauritania are the countries of the Sahel Five.
Facing an election and considering the public’s sentiment President Macron has declared a drawdown of 2000 troops by 2021. Some bases in the region will be closed. 2-3000 troops are expected to remain.
The French ministry of Defense gives the lates SITREP of its Sahel Operations, situation update, 19 to 25 April France MOD.
FRENCH UNITS IN GABON
OPERATIONAL MILITARY PARTNERSHIP TACTICAL UNIT ON DEPLOYMENT
On Monday, 15 April 2019, the French units in Gabon (EFG) welcomed the arrival of the operational military partnership tactical unit (GT PMO) at Camp de Gaulle, the French military base in Libreville.
Made up of 158 soldiers, this unit will temporarily reinforce the forces stationed at the cooperation operational base (POC) in Libreville, as part of the operational cooperation unit (GCO/6th Marine Infantry Brigade). This deployment will enable the French units in Gabon to meet growing demands for military partnership in Central Africa, mainly in the shape of training and support for officers and existing units in the partner armed forces.
Organised into four independent and equal-sized detachments, reinforced by a specialist detachment, the GT PMO will be deployed in a number of countries in the region. Autonomous and agile, the unit will also be deployed in the Central African Republic, in Bangui and Bouar, where it will help rebuild the Central African Armed Forces (FACA).
It will act in direct cooperation with the operational support detachment stationed in Bangui, which is tasked with leading technical training detachments for the FACA, alongside the EUTM-RCA. These training programmes, which are tailored to the FACA’s requirements, are a good illustration of the operational cooperation that is being developed by French Armed Forces to help their Central African partners, and in which the GT PMO is directly involved.
MILITARY SITUATION IN THE THEATRE
Operation Chammal, France’s contribution to Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), continues the fight to defeat ISIL, still supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria, in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, and the Iraqi Security Forces in Iraq.
The security situation in the Levant is, overall, stable.
In Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces are pursuing operations to secure the Middle Euphrates River Valley.
In Iraq, the Iraqi Security Forces are also continuing their operations to secure the country in view of the continuing threat from ISIL.
France’s commitments within the Coalition forces are still ongoing, through support and training operations.
- Advanced terrestrial navigation course for trainees from the ICTS
From 30 March to 17 April 2019, three instructors from the Narvik Task Force led a course on terrestrial navigation for 18 trainees from the third school of the ICTS (Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service). The course aimed to teach the students all they need to know to move around the terrain using maps, compasses and GPS.
The theory part of the course focused on basic topography skills. This included going over the information and symbols used on maps and reading coordinates. The French instructors went on to explain the basic principles involved in using a compass and a roamer, and then trained the students in the use of GPS. Practical training entailed a series of workshops in the field, including orientation, observation of the terrain, and route cards. The trainees also practised all the skills required for movement towards a tactical target.
- E-3F AWACS detachment comes to an end
The E-3F AWACS aircraft, deployed at the Al-Udeid air base since February, landed for the last time at the base in Qatar on Thursday, 18 April.
For over two months, a detachment from the 36th Airborne Command and Control Wing has been deployed at Al-Udeid air base in Qatar. Deployed for the thirteenth time under Operation Chammal, this high-performance aircraft saw its air operations command and control duties come to an end, having completed 18 warfare missions.
Under the tactical command of the Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) in Al-Udeid, as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the E-3F notched up over 200 flying hours.
Made available to the Coalition forces by France, the AWACS (Airborne Warning And Control System) has been involved in a broad spectrum of operations covering the entire AOR (Area of Responsibility). Around thirty personnel work aboard the E-3F to deal with the huge variety of air operations in the theatre: managing air space, managing air-to-air refuelling aircraft, coordinating air-to-ground support, air defence control, and drawing up the RAP (Recognised Air Picture).
To achieve all this, the crew of the E-3F, who specialise in around fifteen different areas, kept up an intense pace to plan flights that can last over 12 hours at a time, systematically backed up by an air-to-air refuelling tanker. On the ground, the mission crew is also made up of specialised operators, including mechanics, IT specialists and encoders.
- Air sorties this week (from 17 to 23 April inclusive)
French aircraft based in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates continue operations to defeat ISIL as part of the Coalition forces.
Aircraft engaged in Operation Chammal carried out 27 air sorties this week. French Rafale jets did not carry out any air strikes this week.
- Security situation
The security situation is still beset by tension in Central Mali, although things are relatively stable in the Sahel-Saharan Strip as a whole. Barkhane continues to conduct operations at a sustained rhythm in the Liptako-Gourma region.
- Operation in the Liptako-Gourma region
From 11 to 16 April 2019, the “Bir-Hakeim” Desert Tactical Group (GTD-2) conducted an area control operation in the Liptako-Gourma region, in the sectors of In-Delimane, I-n-Kismane Wadi and south of the RN 20 road. The operation was carried out jointly with a section of the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) from the In-Delimane garrison.
This area, which lies at the crossroads between southern Liptako (Malian side of the border) and Telatai, is known to be an area in which armed terrorist groups and highway bandits are active.
Continuing on from previous area control operations, the objective of this operation, in which around a hundred soldiers in thirty odd vehicles were involved, was to maintain constant pressure on the armed terrorist groups, blocking their freedom of action, while strengthening links between the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) and the population.
This intermediate operation served to further improve knowledge of the area and to pursue efforts to build up trust with the local people. It also resulted in identifying some of the routes used by the armed terrorist groups.
A joint patrol carried out at In-Delimane market at a busy and crowded time of the day, also provided an opportunity to demonstrate to the local population that the partners are determined to restore security for them.
- Operational military partnership in Ouallam: Operational preparedness session for the Niger Armed Forces
From 28 March to 6 April 2019, within the framework of the Operational Military Partnership, a “Bir-Hakeim” Armoured Desert Tactical Group detachment deployed in the Ouallam region spent a week training the Niger Armed Forces in operational preparedness. Some of the soldiers trained will be deployed in the short term on security operations and joint operations such as those recently carried out in the Liptako region.
A Parachute Battalion company, two Engineer units and an artillery unit took the training, which was geared to combating armed terrorist groups, and included both theory and situation simulation exercises in the field.
For this operational preparedness session, the detachment had organised a programme covering the entire range of joint forces combat adapted to the security situation in the region. The Parachute company honed their firing skills thanks to the combat fire training sessions (IST-C) and conducted exercises on responding to ambush. Infantry combat training was held for 125 soldiers belonging to the Niger Armed Forces alongside modules on first aid in combat and on dealing with improvised explosive devices (IEDs). For the Engineer units, the training focused on opening up routes and identifying and reporting IEDs. Training for the artillery unit covered mortar fire, aiming, emplacement and firing calculations as part of the week’s training programme on operational preparedness.
- Joint patrol with the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) in the Tessalit region
On Tuesday, 9 April 2019, French soldiers from the “Bir-Hakeim” Desert Tactical Group carried out a joint patrol in liaison with the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa), in the Tessalit region, in Northern Mali.
This involved carrying out reconnaissance in a valley to confirm whether it can be used for logistics convoys in the future. The Malian combat unit headed the column to lead the way and to counter any threat, in the form of suspect objects or activity.
The Barkhane and Malian soldiers patrolled side by side for seven hours, in this immense and sparsely populated area of the Sahel, concentrating primarily on observation, as they advanced and during stops.
The terrain in this northern region of Mali is particularly rough. Stony deserts, called “ergs”, mean that the risk of punctures is high, while dried up wadis increase the risk of getting stuck in the sand. With temperatures as high as 50°C in some of the vehicles, the area seems even more inhospitable, making this an especially gruelling mission for men and vehicles alike.
Barkhane force aircraft carried out 95 sorties this week, including 38 fighter sorties, 23 ISR and air-to-air refuelling sorties, and 34 transport operations. They carried out 86 sorties last week.
Sources: EMA French Defence Staff
Rights: French Ministry of Defence