AFRICA/MALI - Regional security uncertain after the withdrawal of French and European troops from Mali

Thursday, 17 February 2022 jihadists  

Paris (Agenzia Fides) - "There are no longer the political, operational and legal conditions" to continue our military missions in Mali. In a joint press release published this morning, February 17, France and its European partners as well as Canada announced the withdrawal of the soldiers engaged in the Barkhane mission (French) and the Task Force Takuba (European). Paris and its partners, however, want to "remain engaged" in the Sahel 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", specifies the joint declaration. France intervened militarily in Mali in January 2013 to contain and then repel the jihadist advance that threatened the country (see Fides 14/1/2013). After repelling the advance of radical Islamist groups threatening Bamako, France launched a vast regional operation, Barkhane, deploying thousands of soldiers to fight local fringes of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. In support of the French and Malian forces, the United Nations mission MINUSMA and Task Force Takuba, composed of soldiers from several European countries and Canada, have been deployed. But despite its tactical victories, the Malian state has not been able to regain control of its territory and deploy its administrative structures. Two military coups in 2020 and 2021 escalated the conflict, with Paris accusing the military who took power of relying on Russian mercenaries. The announcement of the French and European withdrawal from Mali was made by French President Emmanuel Macron during a press conference with the President of the European Council and the Heads of State of Senegal and Ghana, signifying the concerns related to the extension of the threat of Sahelian jihadist groups to the states bordering the coasts of West Africa. Senegalese President Macky Sall said he "understood the decision" to withdraw but stressed that "the fight against terrorism in the Sahel cannot be the exclusive affair of African countries (...). We are happy that there is a renewed commitment to stay in the region and redeploy the military". This concern is shared by states in the region in light of the recent jihadist attack in northern Benin, which left nine people dead, including a French citizen. In response, French forces claimed to have pursued the group allegedly responsible for the attack in neighboring Burkina Faso, killing 40 jihadists. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 17/2/2022)