Barkhane operations between February 9 and 17 targeted Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliated militantsAround 50 militants were “neutralized” in actions carried out by the France-led Operation Barkhane targeting Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliated fighters in Mali, according to an Armed Forces Ministry release.The operations, conducted in two phases between February 9 and 17 around the central town of Mopti, were the result of “preparatory work and intelligence gathering that made it possible to characterize with certainty the activity of armed terrorist groups,” the Thursday, February 20 release said.Around 30 motorcycles and two pickup trucks were destroyed, and weapons, telephones and electronic equipment were seized during the actions.In the first operation, carried out northwest of Mopti between February 9 and 10, airstrikes conducted by Reaper drones and Mirage 2000 jet fighter aircraft along with combat helicopter engagements “neutralized some 20 armed combatants” including an Islamic State in the Greater Sahara officer.The French Armed Forces groups fighters killed, injured or taken prisoner under the terms “neutralized” or taken “out of action,” according to AFP.A second action was carried out between February 16 and 17 south of Mopti, “in a region where Katiba Macina is rampant.”Katiba Macina is one of the constituent groups of JNIM, which has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda.Airstrikes and helicopter fire were accompanied by a helicopter-borne assault, and “some 30 jihadist fighters were put out of action.”“These two operations, with their very heavy material and human toll, weaken the offensive potential of the armed terrorist groups in this region,” the ministry said.FAMa ‘captures 3 foreign terrorist leaders’ near MoptiOn February 18, the day after the French action south of Mopti, the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) tracked “terrorists” in the Somadougou area of the Mopti region, a FAMa release said.“FAMa helicopters carried out precision airstrikes in the Somadougou sector as far as the village of Diallo on the Bankass road,” the release said.Somadougou is around 28 km (17 miles) south of Mopti town, and Diallo is around 25 km further southeast.“Several terrorists were killed, some weapons were abandoned, others destroyed,” and three “foreign terrorist leaders” were captured.It is unclear whether the Barkhane and FAMa operations were related.Earlier this week, the French ministry released information on two other Barkhane actions on February 8 and 13 near Hombori, which is around 280 km east of Mopti town.Between February 6 and 7, the Barkhane force ‘neutralized’ around 20 terrorists “in the west of the Gourma region,” in an area where the “katiba is rampant.”In mid-January, the ministry said more than 30 “terrorists” were “put out of action” in two commando operations in Mopti that apparently targeted Katiba Macina.Growing French presence in the SahelThe French military presence in the Sahel began in 2013 with Operation Serval in Mali, and evolved in August 2014 into Operation Barkhane, which has a mandate for counter-terrorism operations across the region. The Barkhane force focuses activity in insurgent-hit Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, working alongside local troops and other international operations, including the regional G5 Sahel Joint Force (FCG5S), which comprises troops from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania, and MINUSMA, the U.N. stabiliization mission in Mali.Earlier this month, Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said that the number of French troops deployed to the Sahel would increase from 4,500 to 5,100.France and the G5 Sahel states in January injected new urgency into the counter-terrorism fight, announcing a new Coalition for the Sahel which will see increased coordination between French and local forces. Barkhane and FCG5S forces operating under joint command will focus on the Mali-Burkina Faso-Niger tri-border zone, targeting Islamic State as a priority.Barkhane is already building command coordination with Sahel Coalition partner forces, setting up dedicated coordination mechanisms in Niger’s capital Niamey and Chad’s capital N’Djamena, where Barkhane is headquartered, while Mali has launched Operation Maliko, a new counter-terrorism operation that will take into account cross-border, regional and international cooperation.France has also been trying to build support for the new special operations Task Force Takuba that will train, advise, assist and accompany local forces in their fight against Islamic State and al-Qaeda affiliates in the region. Takuba will declare initial military capability in the summer and will be fully operational by the autumn.France hopes that Takuba will comprise around 500 special forces personnel, according to Le Monde. The new French deployment will include around 50 special forces personnel who will form the nucleus of Takuba, Le Monde reported.So far, Estonia, the Czech Republic, and Sweden have announced plans to contribute to Takuba, and discussions with Finland and Norway are reportedly ongoing, but Germany and the U.S. have declined.Belgium is to contribute three staff officers to Takuba according to the Belga news agency, but the current caretaker government’s Foreign Minister Philippe Goffin told AFP on February 13 that committing troops to such an operation would require a government with a full mandate, plus the approval of parliament.Barkhane already has an international dimension, with European partners contributing troops and equipment. Estonia is to almost double the size of its force protection contingent this year, Denmark has deployed two Merlin helicopters, and three Chinook helicopters from the United Kingdom currently support the operation.Islamist insurgents in the SahelThe complex insurgency in the Sahel began in Mali in 2012, when a Tuareg separatist uprising was exploited by al-Qaeda-linked extremists who took key cities in the desert north. Former colonial power France began its Operation Serval military intervention the following year, driving the jihadists from the towns.But the militant groups morphed into more nimble formations operating in rural areas, and the insurgency gradually spread to central and southern regions of Mali and then into Burkina Faso and Niger.More than 4,000 people were reported killed in militant attacks in the three countries last year, according to the U.N., and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that the spiraling violence in the Sahel has spread to coastal states of West Africa.Many armed groups including Islamic State are active in the Sahel region, but the majority of attacks are attributed to JNIM, which formed in March 2017 from a merger of several smaller groups. JNIM’s leadership has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.Since May 2019, ISIS has attributed insurgent activities in the Sahel area to ISWAP, its West Africa Province affiliate that split from Boko Haram in 2016, rather than to Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. ISWAP’s main area of operations is the Lake Chad area of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.Macron has said the Sahel Coalition would prioritize the fight against ISIS in the Mali-Burkina Faso-Niger tri-border area because it is the most dangerous.
Some of the reinforcements "will be committed directly" to G5 Sahel Joint Forces and will "accompany them in combat," Parly saysFrance is to boost the number of troops deployed to its Operation Barkhane counter-terrorism mission in Africa’s Sahel region to 5,100, Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said on Sunday, February 2.President Emmanuel Macron and the Chief of the General Staff of the French Armed Forces General François Lecointre “took the decision to increase the number of troops deployed in the Sahel-Saharan strip to about 5,100, an increase of 600 soldiers,” Parly said in a statement.Around 200 additional troops had already deployed to the region last month, but Lecointre said on January 22 that he was asking Macron for further French reinforcements accompanied by “additional logistical and intelligence” support.“This is a major effort for the French Armed Forces: most of the reinforcements will be deployed in the so-called “three borders” zone between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger,” Parly said.“Another part of these reinforcements will be committed directly to the G5 Sahel forces to accompany them in combat,” she added.Parly noted that Chad “should soon be deploying an additional battalion” in the tri-border zone within the regional G5 Sahel Joint Force (FCG5S), which also includes troops from Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania.She also acknowledged last week’s announcement that the Czech Republic intends to send 60 troops to join the new France-led special operations Task Force Takuba in the Sahel.“Further announcements should be made shortly, depending on the political and parliamentary calendars of the countries wishing to join us,” Parly added.France has for months been trying to build support for Takuba. Parly said in November that France expected the new force to deploy in Mali by 2020. The Czech Republic is only the second country to publicly say it intends to to join the new task force, after Estonia said in November that it would deploy troops to Takuba. A defense ministry spokesperson told The Defense Post then that special forces will deploy to Mali in the second half of the year and that force will “assist, advise and accompany” the Malian Armed Forces.Lecointre has said that Takuba will declare initial military capability in the summer and “will be fully operational by the autumn.”Parly also said that France favors extending the mandate of the European Union Training Mission in Mali to “enable it to cooperate with the armed forces of other G5 countries and thus provide a larger part of their training.”EUTM-Mali’s main objectives is to improve FAMa capacity, but it also works to support the operationalization of the FCG5S through dedicated advice and training. It has a mandate until May 2020 and costs around €20 million ($22 million) per year to maintain. More than 14,000 Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) personnel have been trained since the mission was established in February 2013.France in the SahelThe French military presence in the Sahel began in 2013 with Operation Serval in Mali, and evolved in August 2014 into Operation Barkhane, which has a mandate for counter-terrorism operations across the region. Roughly 4,700 French troops are currently deployed, and they focus activity in insurgent-hit Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, working alongside local troops and other international operations, including the FCG5S and the United Nations stabilization mission in Mali, MINUSMA.On January 13, Macron and the leaders of the G5 Sahel states announced a new Coalition for the Sahel which will see increased coordination between French and local forces focused on the Mali-Burkina Faso-Niger tri-border zone and targeting Islamic State as a priority. The new Sahel Coalition will see Barkhane and FCG5S forces operating under joint command.Parly said on Sunday that Macron had told the defense council this week that “this major step in our engagement in the Sahel must mark a turning point both in the mobilization of our European partners and the ramp-up of G5 forces.”Barkhane already has an international dimension, with European partners contributing troops and equipment. Denmark has deployed two Merlin helicopters and Estonia is to almost double the size of its Barkhane contingent this year. Chinook helicopters from the United Kingdom currently support the operation.Islamist insurgents in the SahelThe complex insurgency in the Sahel began in Mali in 2012, when a Tuareg separatist uprising was exploited by al-Qaeda-linked extremists who took key cities in the desert north. Former colonial power France began its Operation Serval military intervention the following year, driving the jihadists from the towns.But the militant groups morphed into more nimble formations operating in rural areas, and the insurgency gradually spread to central and southern regions of Mali and across the borders into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.Many armed groups including Islamic State are active in the Sahel region, but the majority of attacks are attributed to JNIM, which formed in March 2017 from a merger of several smaller groups. JNIM’s leadership has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.Since May 2019, ISIS has attributed insurgent activities in the Sahel area to ISWAP, its West Africa Province affiliate that split from Boko Haram in 2016, rather than to Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. ISWAP’s main area of operations is the Lake Chad area of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.Macron has said the Sahel Coalition would prioritize the fight against ISIS in the Mali-Burkina Faso-Niger tri-border area because it is the most dangerous.
Até agora, o projeto, lançado por iniciativa da França, teve a adesão de cinco Estados: Bélgica, Dinamarca, Estónia, Países Baios e Portugal.Portugal é um dos seis Estados europeus que participa com militares no conjunto de forças especiais que vão acompanhar os soldados do Mali no combate às várias milícias que operam neste país do Sahel, foi anunciado na sexta-feira.O lançamento oficial da futura força-tarefa ('task-force', em inglês), designada 'Takuba' (designação de uma espada típica da região), foi feito por 11 Estados, mas só seis se comprometeram em participar com efetivos militares."Considerando que a situação de segurança no Mali e, de forma geral, no Sahel, continua a ser preocupante", Alemanha, Bélgica, Dinamarca, Estónia, França, Noruega, Países Baixos, Portugal, República Checa, Reino Unido e Suécia declararam o seu "apoio político à criação de uma 'task force'".A função apontada a esta força é a de assistir as Forças Armadas malianas na luta contra os grupos terroristas e apoiar os esforços desenvolvidos atualmente pela Operação Barkhane e a Força Conjunta do G5 Sahel, conforme comunicado distribuído.Esta força, que deve contar com centenas de efetivos, começa a operar este verão sob comando francês, na região do Liptako, nos confins do Níger e do Mali, onde têm pontos de apoio milícias como a que se designa Estado Islâmico no Grande Saara."Com a 'Takuba', os europeus mostram a sua capacidade de se mobilizar em conjunto pela sua segurança", reagiu na sexta-feira à noite a ministra das Forças Armadas francesa, Florence Parly, na rede social Twitter.Não obstante, apesar de a declaração ser assinada por 11 Estados, apenas seis já se comprometeram em participar com efetivos militares.Até agora, o projeto, lançado por iniciativa da França, teve a adesão de cinco Estados: Bélgica, Dinamarca, Estónia, Países Baios e Portugal.A Suécia espera uma autorização parlamentar para confirmar a participação, com uma força de reação rápida helitransportada integrada por 150 militares. Solicitada, a Noruega anunciou na segunda-feira que renunciava a enviar soldados por falta de apoio político interno. A Alemanha também declinou participar na força.
In a desert wilderness in Mali, close to the Algerian border, pitted with isolated rocks and weighed by oppressive heat, French special forces and combat helicopters begin an operation.At its climax, they claim one of the greatest successes of France’s deployment in the Sahel region of north Africa — the killing of the head of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) Abdelmalek Droukdel.The French military, for the first time, provided details on Thursday of how late last week it “neutralized” the man it has called “the third deputy” of Al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.Officials describe the death of the Algerian Droukdel as the fruit of meticulous intelligence work. This was concluded by a military intervention in broad daylight, about ten kilometers (6.2 miles) from the Algerian border, east of the Malian town of Tessalit.A source close to the operation said about 15 French special forces were dropped by at least two transport helicopters, as well as a Tiger combat helicopter and a Gazelle multipurpose helicopter, with a drone in support.“The capture of Droukdel was not possible,” said the source, who asked not to be named. “The goal is not necessarily to kill,” said the official. But “in combat, the men see just rocks” with combatants cowering behind them. “They don’t know who is behind the gun.” The source added: “This type of individual does not surrender.”‘Building Intelligence’The army is not giving details of the exchanges that took place during the operation, merely confirming that fighting took place at close quarters.“We knew that there was a target of interest in the region for two days. After that, it was all a work of mutual support, between the different sources of intelligence,” said the source. “It is a case of building it up,” said the official, without revealing the origin of the information but confirming the help of the United States.Once the objective was identified and located, conditions in northern Mali at the beginning of the rainy season slowed down the progress of forces on the ground.In the operation, one individual was captured and handed to the Malian authorities after being interrogated by the French forces. But the soldiers also seized important digital material, including phones, cards, and computers. Analyzing them may help explain what Droukdel, who was usually very discreet, was doing in the region.‘Buried at the Scene’There has for some time been major fighting between groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda with those of Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (IS-GS). These have been “violent” fights with “losses on both sides”, according to the French source.It has not been ruled out that this could have prompted Droukdel’s presence in the area. “It’s a real question,” said the source, expressing hope that analysis would shed more light on this.The IS-GS was designated in January as the number one enemy of France’s 5,000 strong anti-jihadist force Barkhane and its G5 Sahel allies of Mauritania, Chad, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso. But, in the end, it was an Al-Qaeda figure who was killed in this operation.“The fact that today we have focused a certain number of our forces on the most virulent and urgent threat has not distracted us from the surveillance of other branches”, said the source.Once the operation was finished, the special forces “applied the standards of armed conflict: the enemy combatants were buried at the scene.” Meanwhile, the prisoner taken “will answer for his actions before the courts,” said the source.The official praised the operational efficiency of the French forces on the ground and in the air, saying they were capable of deploying in a clandestine situation in full gear in temperatures of 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).In military terms, these are “extremely rustic conditions,” said the source.
El objetivo de Defensa es incrementar el número de efectivos en el Sahel, azotado por el terrorismo y otras inestabilidades, y potenciar los equipos móviles de adiestramiento e instrucción en la región
España va a virar hacia África el eje de sus misiones militares en el exterior. La inestabilidad derivada de las actividades terroristas y criminales, unida al incesante tráfico de personas y estupefacientes, aumenta las alarmas en una región prioritaria para España. El refuerzo de las capacidades en el Sahel se llevará a cabo en detrimento de otros despliegues, previsiblemente en Oriente Medio. El Estado Mayor de la Defensa (EMAD) y el Ministerio dirigido por Margarita Robles ya trabajan en el planeamiento de este nuevo orden en las operaciones internacionales.Mali, Senegal, República Centroafricana y Somalia son los países en los que las Fuerzas Armadas mantienen despliegues permanentes de tropas. Además hay acuerdos de cooperación puntuales y periódicos con diversos países del Golfo de Guinea. Y en el Índico, la Armada coopera en la misión internacional contra la piratería. España considera que esas regiones son “prioritarias”, según fuentes militares consultadas por Vozpópuli, y estudian cómo llevar a cabo un refuerzo equilibrado -en recursos y efectivos- en el Sahel.Entre los motivos que sustentan la reestructuración está la persistente actividad terrorista en la región. Menos de 1.500 kilómetros separan la frontera española y maliense, donde ahora se concentran el grueso de los esfuerzos militares de nuestro país (casi 300 efectivos antes de que estallase la crisis del coronavirus). Francia -recientemente neutralizó en Mali al líder de Al Qaeda en el norte de África, Abdelmalek Drukdel- ha pedido en varias ocasiones a la Unión Europea que redoble sus esfuerzos en la región.Los casos afgano e iraquíDefensa reducirá las capacidades desplegadas en escenarios como Afganistán tras el acuerdo firmado entre el Gobierno de Kabul con los talibán y la consecuente retirada de tropas de Estados Unidos. También se prevé el cierre de la principal base de las tropas españolas en Irak, la de Besmayah, y está pendiente ver cómo se reestructura esta misión, ahora reducida en efectivos por la crisis del coronavirus.Por el contrario, España potenciará sus despliegues en suelo africano. Las mismas fuentes militares aseveran que las modificaciones se llevarán a cabo previo acuerdo con las organizaciones internacionales implicadas, principalmente la OTAN y la Unión Europea.Misiones menos estáticasEl objetivo es que las actuales misiones de adiestramiento y asesoramiento en el Sahel no sean tan estáticas en términos geográficos. Hasta ahora, el grueso de la actividad pasa por la instrucción de las unidades en grandes bases, como es el caso de Koulikoro (Mali). La idea para el futuro pasa por formar a los instructores locales para que sean ellos los que lleven a cabo la formación de sus propias tropas. Y en lugar de hacerlo en estas grandes instalaciones, potenciar los desplazamientos de equipos móviles para llevar a cabo la actividad en puntos más diversos. No sólo en Mali, también en otros países de la región.El Jefe del Estado Mayor de la Defensa (JEMAD), general del Aire Miguel Ángel Villarroya, admite este cambio de paradigma en una entrevista publicada en la revista Atalayar: “Es un nuevo cambio de filosofía y requiere de más efectivos”. Y añade: “España ya está planeando incrementar el número de efectivos, probablemente de manera notable”.Poner el foco en ÁfricaLa ministra de Defensa, Margarita Robles, ya ha elevado la voz desde Bruselas para pedir una mayor implicación de sus socios europeos en África. El pasado mes de diciembre, tras reunirse con sus homólogos, afirmó ante la prensa: “He hecho un llamamiento para que los demás países incrementen también su participación”. A su juicio, España “es el país que más está contribuyendo a las misiones de paz, sobre todo en África”, donde aporta “casi el 25% de los efectivos” de las misiones que mantiene la Unión Europea.En las últimas semanas, además, el Sahel ha sufrido un recrudecimiento de la violencia terrorista, con atentados en Mali, Costa de Marfil, Nigeria y en la frontera entre Chad y Camerún. El Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores español condenó los ataques y manifestó su “compromiso” de “redoblar los esfuerzos” junto con la Unión Europea y la comunidad internacional para hacer frente “a los principales retos y desafíos” de la región.
Analysts say that Ag Moussa had been behind deadly attacks that targeted Malian forces but he also enjoyed popularity within his ethnic Touareg community.
France announced Friday that its anti-jihadist force in Mali had killed the military commander of an Al-Qaeda-aligned group linked to attacks in the region.The killing of Ba Ag Moussa is a major boost for the thousands-strong French Barkhane force stationed in the Sahel region of Africa for over half a decade in a grinding fight against multiple jihadist groups who are often also fighting each other.Symbolically, it was also announced on the five-year anniversary of the November 13, 2015 attacks in Paris by jihadist gunmen and suicide bombers that were France’s worst-ever peacetime atrocity.Defence Minister Florence Parly hailed the operation involving helicopters and ground troops that “neutralized” Ba Ag Moussa, described as the military commander of the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM).Ag Moussa, alias ‘Bamoussa,’ is “believed responsible for several attacks against Malian and international forces,” she said in a statement.“He is considered one of the top military jihadists in Mali, in charge in particular of the training of new recruits.”Significant SuccessLast June, French forces in Mali killed Abdelmalek Droukdel, the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the rival jihadist group to GSIM.Observers have noted that the killing of Droukdel was a symbolic victory more than anything else as the prominent Algerian jihadist was no longer involved in ground operations and his death did not change the security situation.The killing of Ag Moussa, a former soldier in the Mali army who turned to jihadism, could thus be even more significant.According to the Counter-Extremism Project (CEP), he in 2017 became the operational chief of GISM under its leader Iyad Ag Ghaly.It has become one of the main jihadist forces in the Sahel along with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) group, which is also is sworn enemy.Both are targets of the Barkhane force’s operations.Analysts say that Ag Moussa had been behind deadly attacks that targeted Malian forces but he also enjoyed popularity within his ethnic Touareg community.Uphill StruggleMali is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in 2012 and which has claimed thousands of military and civilian lives since.Despite the presence of thousands of French and UN troops, the conflict has engulfed the center of the country and spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.Despite a long deployment that has claimed the lives of over 50 French troops, analysts say that the force cannot yet claim any lasting victory over jihadists in the region.According to army sources, France is now hoping to cut back its military presence from the current number of 5,100 in the restive region to make room for a stronger European commitment.Experts say one major vulnerability exploited by jihadists is the inability of many central governments in the region to secure and supply far-flung territories after a military victory.To lighten the load, France is hoping for more military support from its European partners through the Takuba Task Force which assists Mali in its fight against jihadists.
Combining men from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger, and Mauritania, the G5 is meant to bind the countries in an alliance against a common foe.
Three years ago West African nations launched a joint force touted as a giant’s stride in the fight against Islamist militants sweeping across the Sahel.But lack of equipment, funds, and training, together with problems in deployment and coordination on the ground, have left the so-called G5 Sahel struggling for credibility and still dependent on France, the force’s big political backer.Planned as a seven-battalion force combining 5,000-men from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger, and Mauritania, the G5 is meant to bind the countries of this vast region in an alliance against a common foe.Thousands of people have died and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes since jihadists launched an insurgency in northern Mali in 2012, which has since spread into Niger and Burkina Faso.The G5 troops are supposed to operate in three corridors 200 kilometers (120 miles) on either side of common borders. The contingents are based in national territory, with the idea being that they can go across borders for operational reasons.But on the ground, G5 contingents often respond more to their national command rather than to the force’s headquarters, according to western military sources.“We don’t know when they take their orders from their national staff or from the joint force command,” said one.During one operation with French forces at the end of 2019, Burkinabe officers told AFP they had received orders from Ouagadougou not to cross the border into Mali.The orders were completely at odds with the goal of trans-frontier flexibility, yet there is no evidence today that such contradictions have been resolved.Heavily DependentThe G5 has received more than 50 armored vehicles from partners, including the European Union, but remains critically short in key areas.UN troops routinely provide food and fuel for remote G5 Sahel bases whose troops lack the means to be self-sufficient.Earlier this month, Barkhane was asked to escort Malian troops out of Boulkessi, an isolated camp in the center of Mali, so that they could be relieved.After leaving the camp, the convoy was ambushed, but “24-hour intelligence” and intervention by French warplanes and helicopters enabled all the troops to get back safely, according to a report by French military headquarters.
A senior source at the G5 Sahel admitted that lack of air power and intelligence resources such as this were crucial problems.“We don’t have the air capability which is vital for anti-terrorist campaigns, or technological means of intelligence,” the source said.On January 13 this year, at a summit on Sahel security in the southwestern French town of Pau, Chad vowed to send a battalion to the “tri-border” region — a notoriously lawless area straddling the frontiers of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso.But the ground-breaking promise has yet to be fulfilled.Chadian government spokesman Cherif Mahamat Zene told AFP that preparations “are on schedule” for sending the army’s 8th Battalion, but its dispatch depends on “a certain number of factors… which are currently under discussion,” which he hoped would conclude shortly.Despite these problems, Ibrahim Yahya Ibrahim of the International Crisis Group (ICG) thinktank, pointing to a fall in attacks, said “in 2020, the armed forces got on top of” the jihadists.But he asked whether this would last, given the “highs and lows” in a grinding and costly campaign.“One thing is for sure — the armed groups have not been wiped out.”