France and its European partners on Thursday said in a joint statement that they are planning to withdraw their military from Mali and set to come up with a new plan to run their operations in the country.
This follows deteriorated Relations between Paris and Bamako since the military junta went back on an agreement to organize an election in February and proposed holding power until 2025. It has also deployed Russian private military contractors, which some European countries have said is incompatible with their mission.
“Due to multiple obstructions by the Malian transitional authorities, Canada and the European States operating alongside Operation Barkhane and within the Task Force Takuba deem that the political, operational, and legal conditions are no longer met to effectively continue their current military engagement in the fight against terrorism in Mali,” the statement said.
Successive coups in Mali, Chad, and Burkina Faso – all ex-French colonies – have weakened France’s West African alliances, emboldened jihadists who control large swathes of territory, and opened the door for Russia to fill the vacuum.
Diplomats warn that spiraling violence could give fresh impetus to migration from West Africa to Europe. It also threatens international mining operations and stability in strategic French partners such as Ivory Coast and Senegal.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Niger had agreed to host European forces fighting Islamist militants.
Thursday’s statement was issued by countries operating with France’s Barkhane counter-terrorism force and the Takuba mission, which includes some 14 European nations.
They “have thereof decided to commence the coordinated withdrawal of their respective military resources dedicated to these operations from Malian territory”.
France has had troops in Mali since 2013, when it intervened to drive back Islamist militants who were advancing on the capital. The Islamists have since regrouped and are waging an increasingly bloody insurgency across the region.
French military sources said a drawdown from Mali would take several months and give time to refine security plans for the rest of the Sahel region.