French General Laurent Michon will succeed General Marc Conruyt at the end of July. He will head the military force to fight against armed jihadist groups in the Sahel-Saharan strip, called “Operation“ Barkhane ””. He will be responsible for piloting the announced transfer which notably provides for a clear decrease in the workforce, the Ministry of the Armed Forces announced on Thursday, June 17.
A former student of the prestigious Saint-Cyr military school, General Michon spent most of his career as an infantry officer in the mountain troops. With extensive operational experience (Bosnia, Kosovo, Lebanon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Central African Republic, Rwanda), he was twice assigned to the Planning and Conduct of Operations Center (CPCO) during of her career. He is currently the commander of the 3e division (32,000 men).
“General Michon will take his command in the Sahelo-Saharan strip at an essential moment, marked by the launch of the transformation of the French military system”, which currently has 5,100 men, comments the French Ministry of the Armed Forces in a press release.
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Appointed for a one-year term, the future commander of “Barkhane” will, upon his arrival, have to implement the gradual disengagement from the Sahel recently announced by President Emmanuel Macron, in favor of a system refocused on the fight against terrorism and support for local armies in combat, through the grouping of European special forces Takuba, which has yet to gain momentum.
According to the project studied by Paris, France plans to leave bases in northern Mali – Tessalit, Kidal and Timbuktu – by the end of 2021, to concentrate its presence on the rights-of-way of Gao and Ménaka, closer to the area known as “three borders”, on the borders of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, as well as Niamey, the capital of Niger.
The decrease in French military personnel will take place gradually, with a milestone of around 3,500 men in one year and then 2,500 people by 2023, according to a source familiar with the matter. The elite commandos of the French Saber task force should be maintained to continue the hunt for jihadist leaders.