Sahel- Fear of a European Afghanistan: Kongo Müller is dead, long live Wagner

Sahel- Fear of a European Afghanistan: Kongo Müller is dead, long live Wagner

After the withdrawal of NATO from Afghanistan on the one side there is big talk about the lessons from 9 11 and on the other hand, that Europe and the EU should engage more in international conflicts, also militarily. However, there are now enough voices who portray the European engagement in the Sahel zone engagement of the French and German military as next “European Afghanistan”, while France wants to withdraw many troops and German defense minister Annegret Kramp- Karrenbauer also calls for a retreat. While the France are now proud to have eliminated the alleged IS leader, it seems to be sure, that the Europeans will withdraw their troops. Russia seems to fill the vacuum as European and Western goverments also don´t want to support the military leaders which made coups in Mali and other states. Even the last success report of France about the eliminiation of the IS leader won´t change the trend.

French soldiers killed the leader of an offshoot of the Islamic State jihadist militia in the Sahel region (ISGS). As French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Twitter that night, Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahrawi was „neutralized“. In French military language, this means that the enemy has been incapacitated or killed. „This is another great achievement in our fight against terrorist groups in the Sahel,“ added Macron. The presidential palace confirmed the death of the militia leader. Most of the attacks in the African region between Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso are attributed to the ISGS. Al-Sahrawi’s group carried out a fatal attack on US soldiers in 2017. In August 2020, Al-Sahrawi personally ordered the murder of six French charities and their Nigerian driver, Macron’s office said. The terrorist militia ISGS and other jihadists are increasingly carrying out attacks on civilians in the Sahel region and are also attacking schools

 According to Amnesty International, more than 60 children have been killed by such Islamist groups in Niger alone this year. The jihadists also tried to recruit minors there. Because of the growing violence in the Sahel region, the French president has been pushing for support from other European countries for years. The former colonial power France currently has 5,100 soldiers stationed in the Sahel as part of the combat mission Barkhane, but wants to reduce their number to around half by the beginning of 2022 and end the combat mission. In France as in the Sahel states, the mission has recently come under increasing criticism for lack of success. The French soldiers support the troops of the so-called G5 Sahel countries Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad in their fight against extremist groups. The Bundeswehr is also represented by several hundred soldiers in Mali as part of UN and EU missions. Since last year, under pressure from France, there has also been a European task force called Takuba in the region.However, nobody in the European main stream media ever reported about Takuba and what it is or should be. And the European gap semmes t be filled by the Russians.

Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer reacted to the possible deployment of Russian mercenaries in Mali and questioned the deployment of the Bundeswehr there. „If the cooperation between Mali and Russian mercenary groups is confirmed, that calls into question the basis of the Bundeswehr’s mandate for Minusma and EUTM, and together with the Bundestag we would have to draw conclusions,“ wrote Kramp-Karrenbauer on Twitter. According to her, cooperation between the Malian government and Russia would contradict everything that Germany, other EU countries and the UN have done in Mali in recent years. Kramp-Karrenbauer was referring to reports that the military leadership, who came to power in a coup in Mali, wanted to sign an agreement with the Russian mercenary company Wagner. The Foreign Office had previously expressed concern about the possible use of Wagner mercenaries in Mali: „We find this extremely worrying,“ said a spokeswoman for the Foreign Office, referring to the close coordination with France. A Defense Ministry spokeswoman was also concerned. The European and international partners will be consulted and, if necessary, the consequences will be discussed. When asked about a possible stop to cooperation with the government in Mali, she only said that the Bundeswehr was operating in Mali on the basis of two foreign deployment mandates. Almost 1,000 Bundeswehr soldiers stationed in Mali On Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on reports about the deployment of so-called Russian Wagner mercenaries in Mali that it was „incompatible“ with the French military presence in the former French colony. „Wagner is a militia that has shown itself in the past in Syria and the Central African Republic through mistreatment and all kinds of violations that it is not part of a solution and therefore incompatible with our presence,“ said Le Drian. In Mali and the surrounding region, Malian, French and European armed forces, as well as UN peacekeeping forces, have long been fighting against insurgents associated with the Islamic terrorist groups „Islamic State“ and Al-Qaeda. Their attacks have killed thousands of civilians and forced millions to flee in recent years. France is militarily the strongest supporter of the Malian government in the fight against the Islamists. But Germany is also involved in two international missions in Mali. Around 880 Bundeswehr soldiers are part of the UN troop Minusma. The Bundeswehr currently provides around 110 men and women for the EU training mission EUTM.

However, Mali’s coup government signed contract with private Russian security company „Wagner Group“. The French government is outraged.| There could be 1,000 Russian mercenaries who will be deployed in Mali in the future. This provides for a contract between the Malian state and the Russian Wagner group – a private security company whose mercenaries were in Libya, Chad and the Central African Republic. It is said that the Wagner Group will receive the equivalent of 9.1 million euros a month for its services. In addition, the mercenaries were supposed to train the Malian military and protect high-ranking officials. Interim President Assimi Goïta and Defense Minister Sadio Camara are expected to sign the agreement on the Malian side. They are among the leaders of the August 2020 coup in which President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was deposed.

 In May Goita dismissed the interim president Bah Ndaw and took over the office. France reacted to the project with indignation. Defense Secretary Florence Parly said efforts to fight terrorism would be undermined. Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly: „An intervention by such a group in Mali would be incompatible with our presence.“ The Wagner group are militias. The ex-colonial power is present in the country with 5,100 soldiers as part of the Barkhane mission. It is to be halved by 2023. There were several protests against the French presence in Mali’s capital Bamako. Russia woos the continent and has been trying to increase its influence in Africa for some time. With the end of the Cold War this had decreased noticeably. At the military level, an agreement was reached with Nigeria at the end of August. Among other things, equipment is to be supplied and army personnel trained. The Stockholm Institute for Peace Research (Sipri) estimates that between 2016 and 2020, 18 percent of Russian arms exports went to Africa. It is increasingly and also Russian mercenaries who are accused of serious human rights violations. According to the UN, they committed this in the Central African Republic. Private Russian security companies are considered Russia’s shadow army. Russia is also officially courting the continent. In 2019, President Vladimir Putin invited the first Russia-Africa summit to Sochi and said: Russia does not want to participate in the division of wealth, but rather enter into a competition for cooperation with Africa. In the spring, Moscow had promised 300 million doses of the Sputnik vaccine.

However, while the EU seems to withdraw, Trump called African states “shit holes” and Biden till now has not focused on Africa, only talks about a Western Silkroad in Eurasia and Africa without any concrete financing, the US AFRICOM in Stuttgart/ German is also very passive at the moment, China already filled the gap with its New Silkroad BRI and the Russian seem to systematize and institutionalize their relations like the Chinese with regular Russia- Africa summits. As Kongo Müller and Bob Brown´s Soldier of Fortunes are dead, French and German armies withdraw.Russian Wagner fills the gap.

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