President Idriss Deby has said Chadian troops will no longer participate in military operations outside the country’s borders as part of national army campaigns against armed groups active in the Lake Chad region and the Sahel.
“Our troops have died for Lake Chad and the Sahel. From today, no Chadian soldiers will take part in a military mission outside Chad,” he told national TV on Thursday.
Deby’s remarks echoed frustration at perceived failures by allies to do more in the fight against armed groups, and came as Chadian armed forces ended a major offensive against Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region.
On Thursday, the army claimed that 1,000 fighters had been killed in the operation. Fifty-two of the army’s troops were also killed.
The offensive was launched after at least 92 Chadian troops were killed in a Boko Haram raid on a base at Bohoma on March 23 – the biggest one-day military loss in the country’s history.
The implications of Deby’s remarks for Chad’s wider military involvement were not immediately clear.
Lake Chad is a vast body of water where the borders of Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon meet. The western shores of the lake have been hit by fighters crossing from northeastern Nigeria, where Boko Haram launched an armed campaign in 2009.
The four countries bordering the lake moved in 2015 to set up a formation called the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), also including Benin, to fight Boko Haram.
But Chad, whose forces have a relatively high standing in the Sahel region, has shown frustration with the MNJTF following the Bohoma losses.
“Chad is alone in shouldering all the burden of the war against Boko Haram,” Deby publicly complained last weekend.
Chadian troops are also part of the so-called G5 Sahel force – comprising soldiers from Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, as well – fighting armed groups in the Sahel.
While announcing the end of the offensive, the army said on Thursday that its troops had expelled armed fighters from Chadian soil and had advanced deep into Niger and Nigeria.
Deby said that he had warned those countries that his forces would move out of bases seized there from Boko Haram by April 22, regardless of whether their armed forces moved in or not.