It’s been eight years since French troops were deployed to the Sahel. In the intervening years the region has grown less stable, with attacks by armed groups spreading from Mali to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger. Nearly three million people are currently refugees or internally displaced in the region, and 13 million face food insecurity in 2021 (a 76% increase since 2019).
This year sees the “Europeanisation” of the military intervention. Task Force Takuba, which has an initial mandate of 3 years to fight Jihadist groups in the Sahel, is now operational, bringing together special forces from a coalition of European countries to bolster the thousands of French and other troops already deployed in the region. In April 2021, EU foreign ministers approved a new common Integrated Strategy for the Sahel.
What’s Europe’s exit strategy? How can France (and Europe) avoid a new “forever war” in the Sahel? In a recent Friends of Europe report, Crossing the Wilderness: Europe and the Sahel, senior fellow Paul Taylor argues that the EU must apply “tough love” by linking financial support to strict conditionality in terms of governance reforms, cracking down on corruption, disbanding “self-defence” militias and ending widespread human rights violations, etc.
Want to learn more about the Sahel conflict? Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger version):
At the end of March, we spoke to João Gomes Cravinho, Portugal’s Minister of Defence. We asked him about Europe’s Sahel strategy:
What do our readers think? We had a comment come in from Ivan asking whether the EU’s Sahel strategy properly takes into account climate change, and the predicted environmental pressures on region over the coming decades.
To get a response, we put Ivan’s comment to Paul Taylor, Senior Fellow for Peace, Security and Defence at Friends of Europe and author of a recent report on the Sahel. How would he respond?
Next up, we had a comment from Afreeca on our sister platform, Debating Africa. She argues that “even security can be corrupted”. Does the EU’s strategy effectively tackle corruption in the Sahel? How would Paul Taylor respond?
Finally, we had a comment from Diogo arguing that the EU should loudly and consistently condemn human rights abuses wherever they occur in the world. Is the EU doing enough to stop human rights abuses in the Sahel, not just by rebels but also by pro-government militias and security forces?
How can Europe avoid a “forever war” in the Sahel? What should be the EU’s Sahel strategy? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!