For members


Reader question: Why were French soldiers in Mali?

France has announced an end to the almost decade-long military engagement Opération Barkhane, but why were French soldiers in the west African country of Mali in the first place?

A French soldiers on operation in Mali
A French soldiers on operation in Mali. Photo by Maimouna Moro/AFP

Reader question: Opération Barkhane is all over French news again, but can someone explain to me why French soldiers were in Mali in the first place?

President Emmanuel Macron has announced the end of operations in Mali and the withdrawal of French troops from the country.

Mali, in West Africa, is one of the 25 poorest countries in the world. It was a French colony up until 1960 and has been at war with Salafist jihadist groups since 2012.

Mali counted 1,000 to 1,400 terrorist fighters out of the 2,000 estimated in Sahel – the region of North Africa which includes countries such as Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad – and was labelled an “epicentre of international terrorism” by Macron. 

Since 2013, 5,100 soldiers from the French army have been fighting against armed groups linked to Al-Qaida or the Islamic State in Sahel, a military engagement known as Opération Barkhane.

Since the beginning of the operation, 52 French soldiers have died, about 8,000 civilians have been killed in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso and 2 million were displaced by the fighting.

Despite Barkhane’s few victories, Islamist groups are also making progress and countries in the Gulf of Guinea like the Ivory Coast, Togo or Benin, are also threatened.

The expensive military undertaking has also become increasingly unpopular with the public in France, although the final decision to withdraw came after a breakdown in relations with the ruling junta in Mali.

But President’s Macron decision to withdraw part of France’s army doesn’t mean a complete end to the involvement of French soldiers in the Sahel region, as troops will still be deployed on counter-terrorism actions in Niger. 

Member comments

  1. According to the British guttersnipe press, it’s only the British troops in Mali and they are of coarse doing a wonderful job as usual.

    1. They are there at the request of the UN and wear the blue beret. Of course they’re doing a great job.

      1. They are doing what they are paid to do but you missed the point I was making that the articles in the British guttersnipe press gives the impression that British troops are the only ones there. French troops have been there since 2014 but are being pulled out which started in the north of the country.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

After the seismic decision of the US Supreme Court on Friday, French MPs are calling for the right to abortion in France to be protected by the constitution.

French lawmakers push for abortion rights to be enshrined in constitution

Lawmakers from French President Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance party are to propose a parliamentary bill on Saturday that would enshrine the right to abortion in the constitution. 

The move comes after the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision on Friday.

“In France we guarantee and advance the rights of women. We protect them,” said Aurore Bergé – the head of Renaissance in the Assemblée nationale and one of the key sponsors of the bill. 

Another co-sponsor, Marie-Pierre Rixain tweeted: “What happens in elsewhere cannot happen in France. We must protect the right to abortion for future generations. 

In 2018 and 2019, Emmanuel Macron’s party – which back then was known as La République en Marche – refused to back bills proposed by left-wing party, La France Insoumise, to enshrine abortion rights into the constitution. 

In a Saturday interview with France Inter, Bergé suggested that the success of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National during parliamentary elections earlier this month had created a sense of newfound urgency. 

She described the far-right MPs as “fierce opponents of women’s access to abortion” and said it was important “to take no risk” in securing it. 

READ MORE France’s Macron condemns US abortion ruling

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne has come out in support of the bill. 

The left-wing opposition block, NUPES, also backs it and had planned to propose an identical piece legislation of its own on Monday. 

Macron is seeking parliamentary allies to pass reforms after his formation lost its majority in legislative elections earlier this month.

The legal timeframe to terminate a pregnancy in France was extended from 12 to 14 weeks in the last legislature.

Changing the constitution requires the National Assembly and Senate to adopt the same text, then a three-fifths majority of parliament sitting in congress. The other option is a referendum.