France, its European partners and Canada announced on Thursday February 17 the withdrawal of Mali from military operations Barkhane and Takuba, due to the deterioration of relations with the junta in Bamako.
In a joint statement, France and its allies considered that “the political, operational and legal conditions were no longer met”. As a result, the countries decided on a “coordinated withdrawal” from Mali.
Paris and its partners, however, want to “remain engaged in the Sahelian region” and “extend their support to neighboring countries in the Gulf of Guinea and West Africa” to contain the jihadist threat. The “parameters” of this reorganization will be decided “by June 2022”.
Emmanuel Macron refuses to speak of “failure”
During a press conference, Emmanuel Macron explained that France and its European partners did not share “the strategy” and “the hidden objectives of the Bamako junta”.
“We cannot remain militarily engaged alongside de facto authorities with whom we share neither the strategy nor the hidden objectives. This is the situation we face today in Mali. The fight against terrorism cannot justify everything, it must not, under the pretext of being an absolute priority, turn into an exercise in the indefinite retention of power,” he declared.
During his speech, Emmanuel Macron “completely” challenged the idea of a French failure.
The Head of State also announced that the European soldiers in Mali will be redeployed to Niger.
A presence in Mali since 2013
France has been militarily present since 2013 in Mali, prey to jihadist groups which are also rampant in other Sahelian states. Paris intervened to stem the advance of radical Islamist groups threatening Bamako and then set up a vast regional operation, Barkhane, deploying thousands of soldiers to fight local franchises of al-Qaeda and Daesh.
But despite tactical victories, the ground was never really taken over by the Malian state and its armed forces.
An aggravating factor, the Malian government was overthrown in a double coup in 2020 and 2021, resulting in the coming to power of a junta which refuses to organize elections for several years and which surfs on a growing anti-French sentiment in the region.
Banished by the West African states, the Malian authorities castigate the Western military presence on their soil and are now calling, according to the Europeans, to Russian mercenaries from the Wagner company.
Since 2013, 53 French soldiers have been killed in the Sahel, including 48 in Mali.