Sahel countries and their ally France have “shifted the dynamic” in the fight against an eight-year-old jihadist insurgency in the region, French President Emmanuel Macron said after a summit to review a six-month-old strategy.
Speaking at an end-of-meeting press conference, Macron said the change in tactics had yielded “spectacular results.”
“We are convinced that victory is possible in the Sahel, and that it is decisive for stability in Africa and Europe,” he said.
“We are in the process of finding the right path thanks to the efforts that have been made over this last six months.”
The one-day summit in Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital, gathered the presidents of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, as well as France.
It was called to take stock of a more aggressive strategy in the Sahel, decided in January after a string of setbacks crowned by the loss of 13 French soldiers in a helicopter crash.
Under the change, France deployed an extra 500 troops to its Barkhane anti-jihad force in the Sahel, bringing its complement to 5,100.
Since then, the jihadists have continued to carry out attacks almost daily, but they also lost a key leader to a French raid and are fighting internally, according to security sources.
Coalition forces have focussed on jihadists in the “three-border region,” a hotspot of jihadism where the frontiers of Burkina, Niger and Mali converge.
“Areas have been taken back from the terrorist groups (and) the armies have redeployed,” said Macron, adding that the tactics “have shifted the dynamic.”
“We now have to consolidate this dynamic and strengthen it… The ground that we have recovered will not be given back,” he warned.