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French Counter-Terror Scheme Draws Fire in Burkina Faso

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GIN – The ‘French pillar of counter-terrorism’ in Burkina Faso and West Africa in general drew fire this week following the deadly Islamic extremists twin attacks in the capital, Ouagadougou.

The attacks targeted the French Embassy in the country as well as its army headquarters. Seven soldiers and eight attackers were reported to have been killed and over 80 persons were injured.

The incident took place in Burkina’s famed capital city of Ouagadougou just as regional senior officers who coordinate with France as part of “Operation Barkhane” against Islamic insurgents were due to meet at the headquarters. But the group changed their venue at the last minute and survived, said Security Minister Clement Sawadogo.

The attack was heavily condemned by French President Emmanuel Macron and U.N. chief Antonio Guterres.

The French operation which deploys 4,000 troops began in 2014 to prevent “a highway of all forms of traffic,” explained former French President Francois Hollande, “where jihadist groups between Libya and the Atlantic Ocean can rebuild, which would lead to serious consequences for (French) security.”

“Operation Barkhane will allow for a ‘rapid and efficient intervention in the event of a crisis’ and have a mandate to operate across borders,” the former leader said.

According to the Middle East Eye, hundreds of millions of dollars have been pledged from the European Union, the Saudis and the Americans, to assist operations.

But what began as a French military reaction to an Islamic insurgency in Mali has grown into a more weaponized permanent and cross-border counter-terrorism effort, at least according to Amandla Thomas-Johnson for the Middle East Eye.

British forces recently pledged 3 Chinook helicopters, 100 soldiers and the army’s Watchkeeper surveillance drones in what would be their first deployment overseas.

The foreign military build-up has troubled some regional experts who have called for a holistic response that promotes good governance, addresses food security and the needs of human development.

“It is clear from the increase in military activity over the past several years that Barkhane itself and strictly military solutions more broadly are not sufficient to decrease militancy in the Sahel”, said  Andrew Lebovich, European Council on Foreign Relations.

In addition, Lebovich said foreign interventions carry a risk of ‘blowback’ from a region where American forces are also known to operate, battling insurgencies through ground operations and drone strikes launched from a sprawling military base in Niger.




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