French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, left, exchanges documents with his Malian counterpart, Bah N'Daw, July 16, in Bamako after signing a military cooperation plan in the fight against Islamist militants. (HABIBOU KOUYATE/ / AFP/Getty Images)
PARIS — France is rebasing its military and intelligence presence in sub-Saharan Africa with the cooperation of five nations to fight insurgents in the region, the spokesman for the chief of the Defense Staff said.
The reorganization, under the Barkhane operation, is “a new strategic approach,” Army Col. Gilles Jaron said July 17. “Today we are beside our African partners to fight against a common opponent, an armed terrorist group,” he said. Barkhane refers to a crescent-shaped desert sand dune.
France will redeploy forces to maintain 3,000 troops in the region, under agreements reached with Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, dubbed the Sahel G5 nations.
Chiefs of staff of the five countries invited French counterpart Army chief of staff Gen. Pierre de Villiers to a meeting on April 9 aimed at coordinating their efforts against the insurgents, Jaron said.
French intelligence operations and fighter jets will be based at Niamey, the Niger capital, he said.
The Barkhane mission is a “reorganization” with a reduction in some and an expansion in other missions, aimed at taking on a regional threat, he said. Paris launches the operation and has closed the Serval mission in Mali, which President François Hollande has called a success.
In Mali, a suicide car bomb on July 14 killed a French NCO, the ninth French soldier lost since the operation opened in January 2013.
The cost of the Barkhane mission will be assessed at the end of the year, Defense Ministry spokesman Pierre Bayle said.
The 3,000 troops will be supported by 20 helicopters, 200 trucks, 200 armored vehicles, six fighter jets, 10 transport aircraft and three surveillance drones, including the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper. The Dassault Atlantique 2 spy plane has been pulled out of the region. ■