The French government will decide in the coming days whether to maintain its longstanding military involvement in Mali, the foreign minister said on Wednesday amid growing tensions in the West African country.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian pledged to maintain France’s counter-terrorism operations in the wider Sahel region, but did not rule out the withdrawal of all French troops from Mali. junta.
Le Drian suggested that a complete French military withdrawal from the country could be part of discussions with African partners in the region.
“We are discussing with partners the number of soldiers that we would need to keep to continue the fight against terrorism,” Le Drian said in an interview with the public channel France 2. “The situation cannot remain as it is. “. Mali has been fighting an Islamic insurgency in the north since 2012. In 2013, France intervened – at the request of Mali’s leaders – to stop jihadists who had seized swaths of the sprawling country. The operation was later extended to other countries with the aim of stabilizing the wider Sahel region which includes Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. In July, President Emmanuel Macron announced a withdrawal of French troops in force from the Sahel by early 2022. On Tuesday, questioned by French lawmakers, Le Drian said that “the fight against terrorism will continue” in the Sahel and in support of the Gulf of Guinea. countries, which are increasingly facing jihadist incursions into their northern regions.
On Monday, Mali’s interim government ordered the French ambassador to leave the West African country, accusing France of undermining its control. Last week, Mali ordered Danish soldiers deployed in the French military operation in Takuba to leave. Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop on Monday criticized French officials on Malian television for “unacceptable” remarks that “challenged the legality and legitimacy” of Mali’s current leaders. France portrays the tensions as broader. “It’s not a Franco-Malian problem, it’s a problem between the international community and Mali,” Le Drian told lawmakers on Tuesday. He accused the Malian authorities of undermining the work of French and European troops and flouting their own constitution.
“Mali’s isolation is such today that it has only one partner: the mercenaries” of the Russian security group Wagner, which has been accused of rights abuses in other countries, said The Drian.
France has also warned of impending EU sanctions, which are being discussed. Prime Minister Jean Castex has accused Mali’s junta of further isolating itself by delaying elections until 2026 and courting Russian mercenaries. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Germany was discussing with European and international partners, particularly France, how to proceed with her country’s deployment in Mali. “In view of the latest steps taken by the Malian government, we must honestly ask ourselves whether the conditions for the success of our joint commitment are still in place,” Baerbock told the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung on Wednesday. “Our deployment is not an end in itself.” Norwegian Defense Minister Odd Roger Enoksen told lawmakers on Tuesday that Norway would not send a small contingent to Mali’s Takuba region, a pledge made by the Scandinavian country’s previous center-right government. Enoksen said there had been negotiations with Mali but “it was not possible to reach a sufficient legal framework with Mali that would guarantee the safety of our soldiers”, according to Norwegian news agency NTB. .
(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)