France suspends joint military operations with Malian troops

France said on Thursday it will suspend joint military operations with Malian forces after the country’s second coup in nine months, “pending guarantees” that civilians will return to positions of power.

The decision comes after Malian military strongman Assimi Goita, who led last year’s coup, ousted the country’s civilian transition president and prime minister last week in what French leader Emmanuel Macron called a “coup in an unacceptable coup”. .

The move sparked diplomatic turmoil, prompting the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to suspend Mali.

The French armed forces said on Thursday that “requirements and red lines have been established by ECOWAS and the African Union to clarify the framework for the political transition in Mali”.

“Pending these guarantees, France has decided, as an interim measure, to suspend in their favor joint military operations with Malian forces and national advisory missions,” the ministry said in a statement seen by AFP.

“These decisions will be re-evaluated in the coming days in light of the responses from the Malian authorities.”

Both Mali and France play a key role in the fight against an ongoing jihadist insurgency in the Sahel region.

France has about 5,100 troops in the Sahel under its Barkhane operation that includes five countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

The Barkhane force, which was launched after France intervened to fend off a jihadist advance in Mali in 2013, will continue to operate for now, but only for now, the ministry said.

However, the French-led Takuba force, which was launched in March 2020 to allow European special forces to train the Malian army to fight jihadists, will be suspended.

A military official in Mali said on condition of anonymity that Malian authorities had been informed of France’s suspension.

Macron warned last weekend that France will withdraw its troops from Mali if it moves towards radical Islamism after the coup.

“Radical Islamism in Mali with our soldiers there? Never,” he told the Journal du Dimanche.

Goita had been vice president since he led a coup in August last year that ousted democratically elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita after mass protests over alleged corruption and the jihadist insurgency.

Under pressure from ECOWAS, the roles of transitional president and prime minister were given to citizens ahead of the elections scheduled for February.

However, on May 24, Goita orchestrated the ousting of President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, raising doubts about his commitment to holding the elections.

Goita will be officially inaugurated on Monday as Mali’s transition president, when a new prime minister is also expected to be nominated.

(AFP)

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