French President to announce troops withdrawal from Mali

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President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce France’s withdrawal of its forces from Mali, after he hosts a top-level meeting on the Sahel region of Africa on Wednesday.

Ties have worsened since Mali’s military junta went back on an agreement to organise elections in February and proposed holding power until 2025.

It has also deployed Russian private military contractors, which some European countries have said are incompatible with their mission.

France has been consulting with its regional, European and international partners amid deteriorating relations between Mali and France, the main foreign power fighting Islamist militants in the Sahel.

“Tomorrow evening, there will be a meeting between the French president and the heads of states of partner countries to our presence in the Sahel region in the fight against terrorism,” French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.

He declined to say whether a decision had been made on withdrawing forces other than to say it would be taken in accordance with European and African partners.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday conditions were no longer in place to continue the fight against Islamist militants in Mali, but that Paris would continue in the rest of the region.

A French drawdown would mean the European special forces Takuba task force would also leave.

Four European diplomatic sources said the announcement would be made ahead of the EU-Africa summit in Brussels on Thursday.

France has already cut troops in the Sahel with the aim of reducing numbers from around 5,000 to 2,500-3,000 by 2023. About half of its forces are based in Mali, so Paris still needs to decide what to do to maintain operational efficiency.

The Takuba mission has about 600-900 troops of which 40% are French and includes medical and logistical teams. It has been more of a symbolic force accompanying local troops.

Reuters/Olajumoke Adeleke

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