Denmark announced on Thursday that it will begin withdrawing troops from Mali following the immediate withdrawal of the West African country’s ruling junta, which struck a blow to France’s attempt to lure European allies to shoulder some of the burden of fighting jihadists in the region. .
The decision comes amid tensions between Mali and its international partners, including regional bodies and the EU, which has sanctioned Mali after the junta failed to organize elections following two military coups.
Tensions have also escalated over allegations that transitional authorities have deployed private military contractors from the Russia-backed Wagner group to Mali, which some EU countries have said were incompatible with their mission.
“We can see that the Malian Transitional Government, or the coup generals, last night sent out a public statement in which they reiterated that Denmark is not welcome in Mali, and of course we will not put up with that,” Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod told reporters . on Thursday. “So that’s why we’ve decided to bring our soldiers home.”
Mali is asking Denmark to “immediately” withdraw troops deployed there
Denmark had sent 105 troops to Mali on January 18 to join a European special forces mission known as Takuba, which was set up to help Mali fight Islamist militants. It said its troops had been deployed following a “clear invitation” from Mali.
But the Malian government said this week that it was surprised by the Danish presence because a decision had not yet been made on a request from Denmark in June to deploy troops.
Junta lashes at French “colonial reflexes”
Denmark’s withdrawal, which comes after Sweden confirmed earlier this month that it would leave Mali in March, is a headache for France, which had invested so much in “Europeanizing” its intervention in the Sahel region, where Paris has thousands of troops in Operation.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian blasted the junta as “irresponsible” for its expulsion of the Danish contingent and warned of a “unanimous, firm, decisive” response from Mali’s international partner.
He called the regime “illegitimate” and “power hungry” and said that “we must draw the consequences” of its actions, without going into details.
“It bears all the responsibility for the withdrawal of the Danish forces and isolates itself even more from its international partners,” said Le Drian.
Relations between France and its former colony have deteriorated, and on Wednesday the junta struck out at Paris, telling it to stop interfering and to keep its “colonial reflexes” to itself.
France and 14 other European countries had called on the junta on Wednesday to allow Danish special forces to remain in Mali, rejecting the junta’s claim that their presence had no legal basis. Government spokesman Abdoulaye Maiga replied that the Danes must withdraw immediately.
“We urge them (the Danes) to be careful with certain partners who unfortunately have problems getting rid of their colonial reflexes,” said Maiga.
The junta’s decision to ask Denmark to leave is likely to affect future deployments, with Norway, Hungary, Portugal, Romania and Lithuania all ready to send troops this year.
Norway, Portugal and Hungary are still waiting for approval to deploy their special forces, the junta said.
( Jowharwith REUTERS, AFP)