Monday, December 09, 2019

France's Long War

The Long War has a lot of fronts and many flavors ... an undertold one is what France is doing in North Africa.

Especially for Europeans, this can be seen as an existential threat. 

If some type of stability is not brought to Africa, then then inevitable pressures of war, famine, and poverty will drive migration north, flooding an already saturated ability of the Europeans to take in migrants ... and all the cultural and societal pressures that will bring with it.
Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly has called on fellow EU governments to despatch special forces to the Sahel, to help curb militant attacks that have killed more than 100 Malian troops in recent weeks.

But France, too, is paying a heavy price for its role in the struggle against Sahel jihadism, with the death of 13 soldiers when two helicopters collided on Monday.

Altogether, it has lost 38 troops in this almost seven-year campaign.

...since 2013 the EU has been retraining the Malian army, while the French anti-terrorism force, Operation Barkhane, deployed across the Sahel is supported by British helicopters, other European allies as well as US surveillance drones.
France and what few partners it can scrape together in Africa can only do so much when their nations invest so little in their military.

They can spend a bit more now, or be swamped later.

For those of us who worked the fight in Afghanistan, this will sound familiar;
Everyone is agreed that military action along cannot bring an end to the violence and restore stability.

Health, education, justice and basic administration are needed to build community support for the Malian state.

More jobs and livelihoods could reduce the risk of disenchanted young men being drawn into jihadist groups or criminal gangs offering money and the status that can come with carrying a weapon.

A wide range of donors have committed large aid budgets to the Sahel, motivated by concern over poverty and climate change in this fragile region so prone to drought - and also by fear of the knock-on impact of terrorism and a potential resurgence in the flow of migrants across the Sahara and Mediterranean.
The present military approach being pursued by the Sahel armies and their international partners is not working, at least not sufficiently - and France is well aware of the need for a fresh approach.

This is one of the world's poorest regions and a much greater focus on development is essential. But that still cannot happen without better security.

That is why - despite the shocking loss of 13 men in this week's helicopter crash - President Emmanuel Macron remains committed to the military campaign, in alliance with Sahelian governments.

But Paris is desperate for other European countries to do more to help share the burden.
In dark moments you have to wonder - can Western forces make these peoples and cultures fix themselves? Are we making things better in the short run, if at all, but in the long run it will account for nothing?

Is it worth the attempt? 

 I think so, as the alternative is something I don't think our modern sensibilities are ready for ... though our kids might have to.

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