French officials have not confirmed the number of troops, however, and it remains unclear where they may move. In Africa, France has bases in Djibouti, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Niger and Senegal. President Emmanuel Macron of France is expected to announce a restructuring of France’s military presence on the continent later this year.
The departure of the French troops epitomizes a broader malaise developing between Burkina Faso and its former colonizer, a phenomenon spreading in Francophone countries in Africa. In Mali, Burkina Faso’s northern neighbor, thousands of French troops spent nearly a decade fighting extremists, but security did not improve, and the reach of the armed groups spread from its desert north to its more highly populated center. Malians blamed the French for the dire situation in their country, and last year, the French ambassador and several French media outlets were thrown out, while all of its troops were withdrawn under heavy pressure from the Malian government.
A similar scenario has unfolded in Burkina Faso, where Islamist militants have made inroads since 2015 and threatened to destabilize neighboring countries. In recent months, analysts and officials have warned that Burkina Faso could turn to the Russian mercenary group Wagner, to reclaim lost territories, a scenario that in Mali has brought some results on the ground but also led to scores of civilian deaths.
In December, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana accused the authorities in Burkina Faso, Ghana’s neighbor, of having signed an agreement with Wagner. “To have them operating on our northern border is particularly distressing for us in Ghana,” Mr. Akufo-Addo said.
That presence, however, hasn’t been confirmed.
Gen. Didier Castres, a former deputy chief of staff for operations in the French military, previously stationed in neighboring Mali, echoed Mr. Ouedraogo’s statement. “As long as Wagner doesn’t step in, I think France will keep the doors open,” he said.