Macron should announce the French withdrawal from Mali | Military News

A withdrawal would mark a major strategic shift by France, which has had troops in Mali for nine years.

President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce that France will withdraw its forces from Mali, amid a breakdown in relations with the country’s military chiefs.

Macron is expected to announce the decision this week, Reuters and AFP news agencies reported, citing diplomatic and security sources. Reuters said the decision could be announced as early as Wednesday following a high-level meeting on Africa’s Sahel region in Paris. AFP said it was likely to be announced to coincide with a European Union-African Union summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

The withdrawal from Mali, with a redeployment of forces to other countries in the region, amounts to a major strategic shift by France, ending a nine-year mission that successive French presidents say was crucial for security. regional and European.

“If the conditions are no longer met for us to be able to act in Mali – which is clearly the case – we will continue to fight against terrorism alongside the countries of the Sahel who wish to do so,” said French Foreign Minister Jean -Yves. Le Drian said on Monday.

There have been two coups in Mali since 2020 and ties have soured since the military reneged on an agreement to hold elections in February and offered to stay in power until 2025. The regime has also developed closer ties with Russia, including turning to suspected Russian mercenaries. private military contractor Wagner, and expelled the French ambassador this month.

“Tomorrow evening (Wednesday), there will be a meeting between the French president and the heads of state of the partner countries of our presence in the Sahel in the fight against terrorism,” the spokesperson for the French government told the press. , Gabriel Attal.

He declined to say whether a decision had been taken on the withdrawal of forces other than to say it would be taken in consultation with European and African partners.

Relations between France and Mali have broken down as the country’s military rulers expelled the French ambassador earlier this month [File: Paul Lorgerie/Reuters]

A French withdrawal would mean that the European special forces task force Takuba would also leave.

A draft document of the plan seen by Reuters, distributed to countries involved in Mali, says France and its partners in Takuba had “decided to begin the coordinated withdrawal of their military resources from Malian territory”.

“It is no longer a question of whether they leave, but of what is happening with the troops, what is happening with the UN peacekeeping force and what is happening with the missions of European Union,” a senior EU diplomat told the news agency.

Shift focus

A French presidency official said the idea would be to reduce troops and cooperate exclusively with countries that wanted help.

France has already withdrawn some troops from the Sahel with the intention of reducing the number of troops from around 5,000 to 2,500-3,000 by 2023. About half of its forces are based in Mali.

The Takuba mission has around 600 to 900 men, 40% of whom are French, and includes medical and logistical teams.

The draft document does not call on the countries involved in the 14,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA), nor in the European missions EUTM (European Union Training Mission) and EUCAP to withdraw . However, their future is uncertain as French forces provide medical, air and security support.

Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares, whose country represents the largest EUTM contingent, said the reasons for Europe’s engagement in the region still exist.

European governments fear that changing relations with leaders in the region could leave a vacuum for movements linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL.

Besides Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea Bissau have experienced recent military coups.

“Spain will make its voice heard in the EU. We believe the reasons that brought us to Mali are still there – instability, jihadism,” he said.

“It is desirable for us to maintain a mission.”

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