President Emmanuel Macron of France has confirmed that French and allied military personnel will be pulled out of the West African country of Mali, the BBC reports. Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) personnel have in recent years been contributing to French-led operations in that country.
Macron said the decision to leave followed a breakdown in diplomatic relations after two military coups have failed to be followed by a restoration of democracy, while the ruling military Junta has continued to be hostile to France, the BBC reported.
"We cannot remain militarily involved" alongside Malian authorities with whom "we don't share the strategy and goals", Macron said Thursday.
The French, Estonian and allied presence in Mali came primarily as part of counter-terrorist, counter-human trafficking operations in Gao, in the southwest of the country, where an EDF infantry platoon is regularly based (Operation Barkhane), and more recently Operation Takuba, which has involved EDF special forces personnel and is focused on the northeast of the country.
Operation Barkhane covers a vast swathe of Sahel nations, all of them former French colonies, including Chad, Mauritania and Niger. Some of the departing French troops will be redeployed to the latter country, which borders Mali, Macron said.
Macron rejected claims that the withdrawal was an acceptance of failure, adding France remains committed to combating Islamic insurgencies in the region.
Other countries in the region have noted the impact the development will have on them.
President of Côte d'Ivoire/Ivory Coast Alassane Ouattara said a vacuum that would increase the burden on regional governments is likely to ensue, though his counterpart in Senegal, Macky Sall, said he understood the French position and was happy the fight against Islamist militants in the Sahel in general will continue.
Gulf of Guinea nations such as Côte d'Ivoire may also be the beneficiary of the redeployment, likely to happen in or by June, the BBC reports.
The original BBC article is here.
The EDF platoon based on rotation in Gao has been mostly tasked with patrolling duties.
News that mercenaries from Russian private security firm Wagner were active in Mali, on the invite of the Junta, initially raised a moral quandary for all the allies when it was announced earlier this year, while the Junta subsequently made it clear that it was going with Wagner in preference over the French and allied military forces which had been at work in the country for a decade.
Estonia's defense minister Kalle Laanet (Reform) confirmed the withdrawal earlier this week.
Sweden and Denmark had already unilaterally announced they would be pulling out of Mali.
Editor: Andrew Whyte