William Molinié, edited by Alexandre Dalifard / Photo credit: FLORENT VERGNES / AFP 06:30, September 28, 2023

On Wednesday, as the France ambassador to Niger returned to Paris, the army's 2024 budget, unveiled by the government, provides for a €400 million cut in external operations. 800 million will be provisioned next year against 1.2 billion euros this year.

Sylvain Itté, the France ambassador to Niger landed Wednesday afternoon at the Villacoublay base with six of his collaborators. For its part, the embassy remains open in Niamey while French troops will have to leave the country by the end of the year. The army's 2024 budget provides for a decrease of 400 million euros in external operations: 800 million euros provisioned in 2024 instead of 1.2 billion this year.

The military fears that the closure of the African theater will relegate the French army to a secondary role.

"A page that is turning"

Because the area that France is about to leave, that of the three borders, between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso, is considered the last major and direct field of confrontation with an enemy. This asymmetrical war against the jihadists of the Sahel allowed the French military to become more seasoned, to evolve in a hostile environment, to turn the equipment.

And above all, to show the world French know-how in the fight against terrorism. External operations have always been a showcase for the French defence industry. "A page is turning, the challenge today is to remain credible," analyzes a senior.

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In Chad, the French army will no longer be so exposed. Operation Chamal remains in Iraq and Syria, but the France is mainly in support of local forces. As for the Eastern European front, the French soldiers did not fight, they practiced in coalition alongside the Romanians and Estonians. "It's the end of an era," admits bitterly, a soldier, who worries about the consequences on the attractiveness of the profession of soldier, especially at a time when the army is struggling to recruit.

How to attract and retain non-commissioned members and non-commissioned officers for whom the financial argument of bonuses in foreign operations weighs in the commitment? Their pay will be increased next month, according to the Ministry of the Armed Forces. For example, a single staff sergeant without children will receive 140 euros more at the end of the month.