Africa

France will not end fight against terrorism due to Mali’s ‘irresponsible’ government: Minister

Jean-Yves Le Drian defends French mission in West African country

Shweta Desai   | 02.02.2022
France will not end fight against terrorism due to Mali’s ‘irresponsible’ government: Minister

PARIS

France will not give up the fight against terrorism in the Sahel region due to the “irresponsible” actions of the military junta in Mali, the country’s foreign minister said Tuesday.

Jean-Yves Le Drian defended France’s military engagement in Mali before lawmakers, who rebuked the Macron government for the humiliating blow to the country’s diplomatic mission after Mali’s transitional government expelled French ambassador Joel Meyer.

The fight against terrorism will continue in the Sahel, as it is not an event that will stop due to the “irresponsibility of a coup government,” he declared.

Tensions have escalated in recent weeks between the two countries following heated exchanges. The Malian government lambasted the former colonial power, asking it to get rid of its “colonial reflexes” and expelled the envoy in response to Le Drian’s remarks that the military authority was “out of control.”

The transitional government led by the military junta that seized power last May announced its plans to stay in power for up to five years after rejecting a February 2022 deadline set by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Pointing to the “political and military rupture,” Le Drian said “the subject we have before us is not a Franco-Malian subject but a subject between the international community and Mali, between Africans and Mali...a subject for our own collective security."

He maintained that France’s military presence, which is being strongly opposed in Mali, is validated every year by the international community.

Several European countries are concerned over the worsening political situation and the Malian government’s decisions, including deploying mercenaries from the Russian paramilitary organization Wagner Group while demanding that European military forces withdraw from the country.

The French-led Takuba Task Force, a group of elite soldiers from several European countries assigned to accompany Malian soldiers in fighting extremist jihadist groups in the Sahel region, is at serious risk after Bamako refused permission to the Danish troops for deployment and Sweden announced that its forces will leave in March. Norway has also said that it will not send its troops after failing to secure their safety.

France itself is reevaluating its presence in the Takuba forces, according to a government spokesperson, although it will continue its military mission in other countries of West Africa. ​​​​​​​

Paris, which had deployed forces since 2013 in Mali, has announced a scaling back of its military mission, including ending Operation Barkhane, reducing troops, and closing bases this year.

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