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Geopolitics

France Kills Top ISIS Leader In Sahel: Africa Is Not Afghanistan

The French military announces the killing of Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahrawi the head of the jihadist group Islamic State in the Great Sahara (ISIS-GS). In its long involvement in the northwest African region of the Sahel, France.

France Kills Top ISIS Leader In Sahel: Africa Is Not Afghanistan

Operation Barkhane in 2016

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

-Analysis-

The hastened withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan has effectively handed the country back to the Islamic regime of the Taliban. But elsewhere, the West's two-decades war on Islamic terrorism carries on.

One key place to watch is Africa's troubled northwestern Sahel region, where France announced overnight that it had killed the region's top ISIS leader, Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahrawi. He is just the latest in a series of high-ranking officials who have been taken out or captured by French forces in recent months, reports Jeune Afrique magazine.

France had announced in June that it was ending its longstanding Operation Barkhane, which has been criticized for not curbing extremists groups despite the significant military investment.

The French military is shifting to a smaller, more agile presence focused on anti-terrorism operations like those carried out in the months since.

Al-Sahraoui represented these intersecting interests.

Still, as Le Monde reports, the choices across the world's military map are interconnected. Macron doesn't want the end of Operation Barkhane to be considered a withdrawal from the region, and compared to Washington's pullout from Afghanistan. "We need to keep a robust operation in the region," one presidential advisor said.

Indeed, international coordination is also happening between the extremists. As Yvan Guichaoua, a researcher at the School of International Studies at the University of Kent in Brussels, told Le Monde earlier this month: "They [Taliban and Sahelian fighters] share on-the-ground insurgency know-how, which is a byproduct of the al-Qaeda matrix. They also have the same ultimate goal: the application of Sharia law."

France had announced in June that it was ending its longstanding Operation Barkhane — Photo: 35e RAP

Al-Sahrawi represented these intersecting interests. He was a former member of the Polisario Front — the liberation movement of the Sahrawi people laying claim to sovereignty of the Western Sahara — and later part of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. He created ISIS-GS in 2015 and was labeled a "priority enemy" by France for being in charge of the majority of attacks in the "three borders" region, which covers Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

This impoverished area is regularly subjected to attacks by ISIS-GS as well as the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda. These violent actions have targeted both civilians and military forces, including the October 2017 Tongo Tongo ambush, in which five Nigerian and four American soldiers were killed while returning to base. In 2020, al-Sahrawi personally ordered the assignation of six French aid workers and their Nigerien guide and driver.

Since 2013, France has combated anti-insurgent movements in the region through Operation Serval and its successor Operation Barkhane (named after the crescent-shaped dune in the Sahara desert). Operation Barkhane has faced criticism both in the Sahel and in France, particularly as a form of so-called "Françafrique", with France continuing an exploitative presence in its former African colonies.

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Ideas

A Writer's Advice For How To Read The Words Of Politics

Colombia's reformist president has promised to tackle endemic violence, economic exclusion, pollution and corruption in the country. So what's new with a politician's promises?

Image of Colombian President Gustavo Petro speaking during a press conference in Buenos Aires on Jan 14, 2023

Colombian President Gustavo Petro, speaks during a press conference in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 24, 2023.

Manuel Cortina/ZUMA
Héctor Abad Faciolince

-Essay-

BOGOTÁ — Don't concentrate on his words, I was once advised, but look at what he's doing. I heard the words so long ago I cannot recall who said them. The point is, what's the use of a husband who vows never to beat his wife in January and leaves her with a bruised face in February?

Words are a strange thing, and in literal terms, we must distrust their meaning. As I never hit anyone, I have never declared that I wouldn't. It never occurred to me to say it. Strangely, there is more power and truth in a simple declaration like "I love her" than in the more emphatic "I love her so much." A verbal addition here just shrinks the "sense" of love.

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