Greece is considering the possibility of deploying combat soldiers in the Sahel war zone

“We are considering the possibility of sending a group of military personnel to the Sahel *,” said Greek Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos, adding that France had already received a corresponding request.

“If Turkey tries to attack and we ask for help from France, French troops will be there, they should be there,” the minister stressed, referring to the Greek-French agreement on defense.

In an interview with a news site Panagiotopoulos said that the country’s political and military leadership is considering sending a group of Greek troops to the Sahel to assist French troops in the war zone between the Sahara and the coastal regions of West Africa.

Operation Barkhan * is an ongoing counter-insurgency operation that began on August 1, 2014 and is being conducted by the French military against Islamist groups in the Sahel region of Africa.

The deployment of troops apparently takes place in the context of the Greco-French agreement on cooperation in the field of defense, which also includes the purchase of French frigates Belharra

Speaking about the benefits of the agreement, with the exception of the purchase of frigates, the Greek Defense Minister stressed that defense assistance in the event of an attack by a third country is considered to be provided by both sides.

“If Turkey tries to attack, and we ask for help from France on the basis of a military agreement signed by us, then the French forces will be there, they should be there,” Panagiotopoulos stressed.

When asked if Athens should also send troops to the Sahel so that the French would help Greece, the minister pointed out that “although this is not necessary, the French side has made a request and we must help.”

“Greece is already considering the possibility of sending a group of stinkers to the Sahel. These are not military advisers, we already have them in this area, they are servicemen of the Armed Forces, ”said Defense Minister Panagiotopoulos.

He added that the sending of the Greek Armed Forces to the Sahel does not stem from a signed Greco-French agreement, but from a broader alliance between Athens and Paris.

“We are for them, and they are for us,” stressed Panagiotopoulos.

* The Sahel is a vast region of about 100 million people with five countries: Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Chad, which are part of the Sahel Group of Five, also known as the Sahel Five. This region is facing numerous difficulties and challenges: the growing threat of terrorism and organized crime, climate change, population growth, etc. All these factors make the region more vulnerable. The response to these common challenges must be political and military, and also contribute to the development of the region.

** Operation Barkhan was launched on August 1, 2014 at the initiative of Paris and covered countries south of the Sahara – Mauritania, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.

Despite strong support, France failed to achieve the desired success, and in the end Paris chose to reduce its military presence in operations and even demanded an effective international presence in the region.

In a way, France wants to establish a mechanism similar to the one that the US created in Afghanistan to fight terrorism after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack.

France’s decision to reduce its role in Operation Barkhan in favor of the military presence of the Sahel countries themselves, with the support of European powers, received a variety of assessments.

In a number of African countries, this decision was greeted with joy, in particular by anti-French circles.

Against this background, the silence of a significant part of the population of Mali, the country that is the center of Operation Barkhan, and also became the reason for its implementation, is quite obvious.

Taking into account the anti-French sentiments, we can say that in the end Paris applied a maneuver, the result of which should be a statement by the countries of the Sahel group of five (G5) that “Africa is unthinkable without France.”

Thus, in the Sahel region, the cards will be shuffled again. At the moment, there is already talk that Mali will begin to seek support from Russia and Turkey instead of France. It is not hard to predict that such an initiative would provoke a reaction from France. And in this context, it is curious what final results Macron’s position will lead to.

Be that as it may, it is clear that the image of France, which is curtailing its military presence in the region without completing the operation, will suffer throughout the world, and mainly in Africa.

[Доктор Яшар Демир – автор книг «Ближневосточная политика Франции» и «Сирия и Хатай», получил докторскую степень в Страсбургском университете в 2010 году за работу на тему присоединения Хатая к Турции и политике Франции в отношении Леванта (Ближний Восток)]

PS It looks like Greece, hoping to get the support of France in the alleged conflict with Turkey, is already ready to “plunge” into another foul-smelling conflict. Serbia, Iraq and Afghanistan were not enough …

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