Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu on Monday refuted the idea that Operation Barkhane was a failure, in response to an open letter from around a hundred senators addressed to French President Emmanuel Macron.
"Today Niger, yesterday Mali, the Central African Republic, Burkina Faso rejected France, French forces, French companies", underline the senators LR Roger Karoutchi, Bruno Retailleau and Christian Cambon in their letter signed by 94 parliamentarians and published by Le Figaro.
"At our expense, after the failure of Operation Barkhane, here are the militias (of the Russian group) Wagner, with little regard for human rights or democracy, but perfectly available to all dictators or leaders who maintain power by forming a coalition their populations against the former colonial power", deplore Messrs.
Karoutchi, Retailleau and Cambon, respectively First Vice-President of the Senate in charge of International Relations, President of the Republicans group in the Senate and President of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Senate, and their co-signatories.
They call for a review of France's policy in Africa, without making any proposals. "I cannot let it be said that Operation Barkhane was a failure," reacted Sébastien Lecornu in a statement sent to journalists on Monday evening.
"Our army has constantly pushed back terrorist groups in the Sahel, saving thousands of lives there and protecting those of the French from the threat of attacks on our soil," he said.
"Barkhane was not a failure: it's a mistake to say that", insists Sébastien Lecornu, while stressing that there are "of course lessons to be learned, as for all crises and for all military operations".
Operation Serval launched in January 2013 against jihadist groups who had conquered northern Mali and threatened to descend further south was succeeded in August 2014 by Barkhane, targeting jihadists scattered in the countries of the Sahelo-Saharan strip.
President Emmanuel Macron officially announced the end of the operation last November.