Morning Guest Podcast Podcast
Death of 13 French soldiers in Mali: General François Lecointre, guest of RFI
General François Lecointre, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, was this Friday, November 29, the morning guest of RFI. Reacting to the death of 13 French soldiers of Operation Barkhane in Mali, he answers questions from Frédéric Rivière and Christophe Boisbouvier.
General Lecointre : No, that's absolutely wrong. What is true, as we have said, and in the current state of knowledge that we have, I certainly would not venture beyond, there was a collision between two helicopters, in a combat operation , I said it, on another radio yesterday, very complex, which requires in an operation and in a hard atmosphere of concentration of combat of measurement of the risks, a very fine coordination. And this coordination that is made complex by the fight, which is part of the fight, led to this accident. But for all that, the jihadists, who were pursued and who were marked in a certain way on the ground, did not take any part in it. And so there was no withdrawal of a device in the face of a jihadist fire. The French army is telling the truth. I think it's important to measure it well. It tells the truth, first, because we owe the truth to our soldiers and we owe the truth to the families of our fallen comrades. First, there are investigations. There are technical investigations, command investigations, investigations that allow us to learn from this fight and that period, from this very intense moment of operational engagement. These investigations are not completed. The black boxes will be exploited to have specific details of how our soldiers died. In any case, what I can absolutely testify today, and I would never venture to say something that is not strictly true, is that there was no jihadist fire on our helicopters.
No shot could deflect one of the two helicopters in its path, for example ?
No, there was no jihadist attack on our helicopters.
There is an idea that is spreading in the Sahel, a rumor that is growing, is that the French are not there to fight against terrorism, but to somehow hand down oil, uranium and water. gold in northern Mali. What do you want to say to those who believe it ?
First, thank you for asking this question. Because, if I agreed to come this morning on RFI, which is a radio that I listened to a lot in all the African countries where I was hired, it's because I can not stand these rumors anymore these allegations and false accusations, which do absolutely terrible harm and havoc in the public opinion of the countries we come to help. The military leader that I am and who loses men in combat tells you that, obviously, that is not the meaning of our action. The French armies are in Mali to restore a situation on which depends our security on us, French, on whom depends the security and the stability of Europe, because it is the stability of all Sahelian Africa and of all of West Africa, which is at stake today. And so, it is first of all a security imperative that makes us act. And, once again, I said it just now, an imperative that seems to me to be what underlies and guides the action of France permanently in the world, an imperative of respect, of the dignity of the respect for the values that France holds. This is the meaning of our commitment. That's why I became a soldier, that's why our French soldiers are proud to wear their three colors. And when I hear accusations like that, I find it perfectly offensive, serious and dramatic. So I want to say to all listeners in African countries who are listening to us that the real reasons for our commitments are there. They are also, perhaps, a debt that we incurred from them the day these Africans came by thousands to defend our soil in 1914-1918, in 1939-1945. That's where my debt is and here's where my worry is. But imagine that we are there to exploit wealth that would simply justify or that would offset the cost of our commitments, the human cost, but also the financial cost, it seems so ridiculous that I can not tell you anything other than what I answer you there.
What you reproach a number of Malians and especially Malian politicians, it is to have committed, perhaps, a tactical error in 2013, at the time of the launching of Operation Serval. That is to say to have come into connivance with Tuareg armed groups to reconquer the north of Mali and that would be the reason why for nearly seven years, Kidal in the north of Mali escapes all authority of the State.
Very honestly, France, when it launched Operation Serval, it did not enter into connivance with anyone. It conducted an extremely daring, vigorous military operation, which it alone conducted with its European allies who provided a significant portion of the logistics, and American allies elsewhere. But on the ground, it was the French soldiers alone. There was no collusion. There was an operation with an armored raid in the depth. To imagine that there may have been the slightest connivance seems ridiculous to me. Moreover, France has done everything to put in place the peace and reconciliation agreement. I have nothing else to say. There is no collusion with armed groups in particular.
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