Defense minister: Allies have agreed to pull military presence out of Mali

EDF and local personnel on patrol in Mali.
EDF and local personnel on patrol in Mali. Source:

The Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) presence in the West African nation of Mali is set to come to an end, defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) says. The failure of democracy in Mali has led to the winding-up of French-led counter-terrorist activities in that country, after unilateral withdrawals by Sweden and Denmark had already been announced and news that the military Junta currently ruling Mali had called on the aid of Russian mercenaries.

Allies confirmed at a meeting Friday that due to the gross violation of the rules by the Malian junta, it is no longer possible to continue the mission, Laanet told daily Postimees (link in Estonian, second story in digest).

The official withdrawal will be announced on Wednesday, he said.

"Democratic elections are not planned, which was one of the most important aspects of the agreement [to provide aid]," Laanet said of the reasons for the withdrawal.

"The other side is, of course, their own desire: The example can be seen with Denmark …  It is not possible to continue in such conditions, and all the other allies agreed," Laanet went on.

Laanet emphasized that this did not mean that the fight against terrorism in the Sahel region would not continue. "Let's see how this can be done with allies." 

The original Postimees piece (in Estonian) is here.

Mali is one of several Sahel nations which are encompassed by Operation Barkhane, a French-led counter-terrorism, counter-human trafficking effort to which the EDF had been contributing for several years, primarily via an infantry platoon based in the city of Gao.

ESTSOF, the EDF's special forces outfit, had also been taking part in Operation Takuba, in the northeast of Mali.

However, as reported recently by Bloomberg, officials close to French President Emmanuel Macron have been nudging him towards a withdrawal from Mali, though not from the remaining Sahel states, due to the collapse of democratic rule in the country.

Denmark recently unilaterally announced it would be pulling out its own contribution to the mission, joining Sweden, which made a similar announcement last month.

A 2021 coup led to the overthrow of Ban Ndaw as president. Ndaw was released from house arrest in late August last year, but following a second coup, the rule of law has not been restored, while the current, ruling Junta summonsed Russian private security firm Wagner, claiming that Paris had abandoned the country's plight.

Kalle Laanet had initially said the EDF would in any case pull out of Mali once news of Wager mercenaries active in the country became known; he rowed back from that stance just under a month ago.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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