Chad announced on Saturday August 21 that it had halved its troops deployed in February within the anti-jihadist force of the G5 Sahel in the area of “Three borders”, on the borders of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.
“We redeployed 600 men in Chad in agreement with the G5 Sahel forces. This is a strategic redeployment to best adapt to the organization of terrorists ”government spokesman Abderaman Koulamallah told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
A contingent of 1,200 Chadian soldiers had been deployed in this area to fight against jihadist groups, as part of the multinational force of the G5 Sahel, a group of five Sahelian countries – Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso – which s ‘have been trying since 2017 to cooperate in this fight.
The area of “Three borders” is, along with central Mali, the most affected by jihadist attacks committed by groups affiliated in particular with Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State in the Great Sahara (EIGS). The dead, both civilians and soldiers, number in the thousands. The last attack on Saturday against a village in this area in Niger left a dozen civilians dead. On Monday, another attack left 37 dead.
A decision “in perfect consultation”
“We have about 600 soldiers left on the ground. This is a long-standing concerted decision with the G5 command. We wanted to lighten the device which was not suitable “, assured Mr. Koulamallah. Chadian troops are based in Tera, a town in southwestern Niger.
“Compared to the situation on the ground, we must have a mobile force, hence the withdrawal of some of our forces with heavy weapons”, added the government spokesperson. “Our political will to face the jihadists remains intact”, he continued.
France, very involved in the anti-jihadist fight in the region, recently announced the gradual reduction of its military personnel in the Sahel in favor of a reduced force from 2,500 to 3,000 men, against the 5,000 or so who made up the Barkhane force that was to disappear. The dispatch of Chadian soldiers, before being effective in February, had been demanded for several years by Paris.
The French Ministry of the Armed Forces has confirmed that the Chadian decision “Was taken in perfect consultation with the partners of the G5 Sahel as well as the coalition for the Sahel including France”. “It is a question of having a device which is at the same time lighter, more reactive and easier to support, while preserving the means of combat most adapted to the enemy”, he clarified.
A Malian source at the Ministry of Defense on condition of anonymity assured that N’Djamena had “Officially notified before” Mali from “This readjustment”, and “The return process” soldiers in Chad was “Well coordinated”.
In the area of “Three borders”, the jihadist presence is grafted onto long-standing tensions between communities, some of which have formed into armed groups fueling the violence. The jihadists play on these old hostilities, recruit from the populations, offer protection, take their tithes. Civilians, caught in the crossfire, must choose between staying and fleeing when, for many of them, it was already war that drove them there several years ago. Those who remain are also at risk of bandits, cattle rustling and assassination. The border between community violence, jihadism and banditry is sometimes thin.
Chad also faces the jihadist presence on its territory in the Lake Chad region, near the border with Cameroon. In early August, at least 26 Chadian soldiers were killed in an attack attributed to the Nigerian group Boko Haram.
“The heavy price we are paying in this asymmetric war is bitter, but it will not be in vain. We will make the terrorist hydra capitulate ”, reacted Mahamat Idriss Déby, president of the Transitional Military Council since the death of his father Idriss Déby Itno in April 2021, killed in fighting against rebels from Libya.