France’s War in the Sahel and the Evolution of Counter-Insurgency Doctrine

Fort Madama, Niger. (Photo: Thomas Goisque)

France has long conducted military operations in the Sahel, from its colonial wars to its present Operation Barkhane, which deploys around 5,000 soldiers across the region. Examining the evolution of French doctrine for such missions highlights how the focus of these operations has changed from a population-centric approach meant to increase the post-colonial administration’s legitimacy, to one that focuses on security. This adaptation recognizes the limited objectives that such operations can achieve but it also presents new challenges since it relies on others for the inherently political work such operations entail.

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