Macron expected to announce the withdrawal of French forces from Mali

Identical sources said that French President Emmanuel Macron will announce this week the withdrawal of French forces from Mali and their redeployment to other places in the Sahel after the breakdown of relations with the country’s military regime.

Several security sources, who asked not to be identified, told AFP that Macron’s announcement of ending the nine-year French mission in Maliwi coincides with the European Union and African Union summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

France initially deployed its forces in 2013 to repel advancing jihadist fighters in northern Mali.

But the extremists regrouped and moved in 2015 to central Mali, an ethnic powder keg, before launching cross-border attacks on neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso.

Now, sporadic raids on countries in the south have raised fears that jihadists are rushing into the Gulf of Guinea.

The expected withdrawal amounts to a major strategic shift on the part of France, prompted by the breakdown of its relations with Mali, a former colony and traditional ally, after two military coups.

The withdrawal would end a mission that successive French presidents have said is crucial to regional and European security.

French Foreign Minister Jean said: “If conditions are no longer favorable to be able to act in Mali – and this is clearly the case – we will continue to fight terrorism alongside the Sahel countries that want it.” Yves Le Drian said Monday.

Macron, who was already planning to reduce the number of troops deployed in the Sahel by about 5,000 soldiers, is expected to announce redeployments to other bases run by French forces in neighboring countries such as Niger.

Diplomatic sources said he was due to host African leaders of the allies for informal talks in Paris on Wednesday before the summit.

With the presidential election looming in April, Macron is eager to avoid comparisons with last year’s chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan – or any indication that the deaths of 48 French soldiers were in vain.

European battle after two coups in Mallesin Since 2020, France and other Western countries have complained that the junta has missed deadlines to restore civilian rule and is becoming increasingly hostile to the presence of French and European soldiers on their soil.

This coincided with the regime developing close ties with Russia, including turning to suspected mercenaries from Russia’s private military contractor Wagner.

Last year, Macron announced a cut in France’s Barkhane force amid questions about the financial cost of the nearly decade-long mission and the high death toll, prompting an angry reaction from Mali.

In recent years, EU partner states have joined France in the Sahel, to share the military and financial burden – and Paris hopes – to curb long-running allegations of French interference in its former African colonies.

But the bell is ringing for this task.

Denmark announced that it was withdrawing its battalion of elite soldiers in late January and Norway abandoned the planned deployment.

“It is impossible to continue in such conditions,” Estonian Defense Minister Kali Lanet told the Postemis daily on Saturday.

Sources familiar with the negotiations said there was disagreement among the Europeans as well as with the British and Americans over a broader departure, including over the dangers of Malioben leaving Russian influence.

But France believes it has dispelled those fears.

A source close to the French presidency said that France promised to coordinate its move with the United Nations peacekeeping force (MINUSMA) and to continue supporting the European Union training mission for the Malian army, providing them with air power and medical support for the time being.

“The real game-changer is that the Malian army will lose our air support from day to day, posing the risk of a security gap,” the source added.

“Nearby” Even if European forces withdraw from Mali, “there will always be some kind of cooperation” between the EU and the Sahel countries, says Ornella Moderan of the Institute for Security Studies.

“Europeans cannot do without the coast, it is in their neighbourhood.”

Just this weekend, France said its forces had killed 40 jihadists in Burkina Faso, including individuals believed to be behind three improvised grenade attacks in northern Benin that killed nine people, including a French national.

European governments fear that shifting relations with the region’s rulers risks leaving a vacuum for movements linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

In addition to Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea-Bissau, it was subjected to recent military coups.

In Mali, the government has failed to allocate resources to reassert its authority over areas purged of jihadists by French forces, and the armed forces remain weak despite years of efforts to train them.

“It will be important to learn lessons from the Sahel” if the work extends to the Gulf of Guinea countries, said Bakary Sambi of the Timbuktu Institute think tank.


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