[…] As the United States continued to evacuate thousands of citizens and allies at Kabul’s airport this week, dozens of civilians and soldiers were killed in several Islamist attacks across a vast and dangerous three-border region that straddles Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali. It was just another marker in a protracted fight that has killed thousands, displaced 2 million and — like Afghanistan — is considered by some as unwinnable. […]
“If there’s any lesson to draw, it’s that indefinite military solutions aren’t sustainable,” said Bakary Sambe, Senegal-based director of the Timbuktu Institute think tank.
“Sooner or later, there’s got to be an exit,” he said. […]
Macron announced in July France’s Barkhane operation would formally end early next year, with troops shrinking to up to half their current numbers and shifted to other anti-terrorist missions — notably forming backbone of the European Union’s fledgling Takuba force, currently aimed at helping Mali fight terrorism in the Sahel region. […]
Not under French consideration, though, is any dialogue with extremists — an effort controversially tried with the Taliban that is earning support among some Sahel authorities, at least when it comes to homegrown groups.
“The French have considered this a red line,” Guichaoua said. “Because that would mean somewhat that French soldiers died for nothing. But it is on the agenda for Malian authorities.”
Local-level negotiations with jihadi groups have long taken place, he said — to gain access to markets, for example, or get hostages released — but not high-level ones, “and the main reason is France.” Läs artikel