In ihrem Artikel in der NYT | 29.03.2020 berichtet Ruth Maclean über Eindrücke von Kontrollfahrten mit den Truppen der Operation Berkhane als „eingebettete“ Journalistin. Sie verweist zudem auf einen Report des ISS vom Dezember 2019, wobei ISS die französische Militärintervention unterstützt, aber zugleich versucht, gegenüber den „Islamisten“ eine differenzierte Stellung einzunehmen. In der englischsprachigen Zusammenfassung dieses Reports heißt es:

Violent extremist groups are generally pragmatic and opportunistic in how they position themselves vis-a-vis illicit activities and local conflicts. They are resilient and adaptable. They exploit the nature and vulnerabilities of local economies, rivalries between different socio-professional groups, and governance deficiencies.

Illicit activities are essential to the establishment, expansion and ultimate survival of extremist groups in the Liptako-Gourma. These mainly take the form of trafficking in weapons, drugs, motorcycles and fuel, along with cattle rustling, artisanal gold mining and poaching. Violent extremists benefit from these activities and also act as service providers or ‘regulators’ of these activities.

Illicit activities enable violent extremist groups to generate income by selling stolen livestock, imposing the zakat on livestock, and managing artisanal gold mining sites. This enables them to purchase vital supplies such as food and medicine, as well as weapons, ammunition, motorcycles, spare parts, fuel and communication equipment.

Support for illicit activities such as poaching in eastern Burkina or attitudes towards local conflicts such as the Fulani-Daoussahaq conflict on the Mali-Niger border has enabled violent extremists to establish themselves and recruit in some communities.

The argument that violent extremist groups exploit and exacerbate local tensions and conflicts is simplistic. The positioning of these groups in relation to local conflicts varies depending on the context and their strategic objectives. Violent extremists can either be parties to conflicts or serve as mediators and their presence can also lead to temporary cessation of conflicts.

The approach of violent extremist groups seems to be a function of several factors related to their needs and strategies: their level of penetration within communities; their sociological composition and that of the communities; and the balance of power between parties in conflict.

Der Bericht in der NYT ist mit Fotos von Finbarr O’Reilly unterlegt und lässt erkennen, warum der Versuch, die Region militärisch unter Kontrolle zu bringen, aller Voraussicht nach scheitern wird bzw. sich zu einem Dauerkonflikt entwickelt ähnlich dem Afghanistan-Krieg.

The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, a potent armed group with loose ties to the Islamic State, has been conducting sophisticated attacks in the border regions of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. In the past four months, militants have raided four major military outposts in Mali and Niger, killing 300 soldiers.

France now finds itself stuck in the Sahel, much like the United States found itself in Afghanistan and Iraq — spending years and billions of dollars on fighting highly mobile Islamist groups in difficult, unfamiliar terrain, with no end in sight.

At a French military camp outside the ancient Malian city of Gao, 15 Malian soldiers were being instructed by French airmen in how to give accurate directions to planes over the radio. The Malians’ mission was to guide a pretend fighter pilot to a pretend terrorist den — a rust-colored house, just like all the others in the city.

West African security forces have little of the equipment, training or even basic education that their French counterparts do. Most of the Malian soldiers said they had never seen a compass before, and they kept getting their directions wrong. […]

A foot patrol of French soldiers, fully covered in flak jackets, helmets, sunglasses and half-balaclavas, skirted around a nomadic family of women and children who were packing or unpacking their hut made of sticks and handwoven mats, and their few belongings — some plastic containers, a cooking pot.

Was the family coming or going, and why? The soldiers could not ask. They had no common language. And if militants found out the family had spoken to them, the family could be killed.
When some Malian teens begged a Foreign Legion convoy for cookies, they blocked the convoy’s path, delaying them for half an hour. The boys got no cookies. In another incident, a legionnaire pointed his gun at some locals who tried to jump on the back of an armored vehicle. […]

A fleet of fighter jets, drones, transport planes and helicopters has given the French a significant advantage, and they are often able to scatter armed groups just by flying low and aggressively over them. But even if local armies were in a position to take over, chasing terrorists from desert to dry river bed to acacia forest is not enough to bring peace to the region, experts say. […]

In most cases, the militants hear the long noisy convoys of the French Foreign Legion from miles away, and clear out. French commanders recognize this. They say that the idea is to keep the armed groups on the run, so they cannot settle in with the local population. (…)

The locals are usually too terrified to give up any suspects, knowing that when the armies have moved on, anyone who helped the military can be executed. There are no police and no courts to protect them.
The legionnaires saw a family duck into their hut. A few nomads herding camels strode past. Could the man who fled be among them? The French troops could not tell. […]

The armed groups have enjoyed such success largely because they have exploited deep anger against the state governments, which many in the region say they see as hostile, self-interested and corrupt. Their militaries are often accused of feeding these grievances, by committing grave human rights abuses against the population.

Anti-France demonstrations, held mostly by residents of Bamako, the Malian capital, over the past six months have attracted French ire.

New York Times | 29.03.2020


„Crisis in the Sahel Becoming France’s Forever War“