The French army leaves Mali in opprobrium

The army French woman leaves Mali in shame

The French president announced in February the withdrawal of troops from Mali after a breakdown in relations with the country's ruling military junta.

More than nine years after being welcomed to Mali Like “saviors” in the face of jihadist groups, the French military completed their withdrawal from the country on Monday, in a climate of acrimony with the colonels in power and growing hostility from the local population.

This day, at 1 p.m. [Paris time], the last detachment of the Barkhane force present on Malian soil crossed the border between Mali and Niger. It came from the Gao desert operational platform, transferred to the Malian armed forces since this morning, announced the army staff, welcoming that this major military logistical challenge was met in good order and in safety. /p>

This withdrawal, ordered on February 17 by President Emmanuel Macron, ends nearly a decade of French military intervention in Mali, probably the last engagement of this magnitude for a long time.

The Head of State hailed in a press release the commitment of French soldiers who, for nine years, have fought armed terrorist groups in the Sahel and 59 of whom have paid the price of their lives.

“Their sacrifice obliges us and reminds us that our soldiers have, during these years, preserved the unity of Mali, prevented the establishment of a territorial caliphate and fought against the terrorist groups which strike the local populations and threaten the country. #x27;Europe. »

— Emmanuel Macron, President of France

Their effectiveness during all these years and until recent days has been demonstrated by the neutralization of most of the top executives in the hierarchy of Sahelian terrorist groups, he adds.

In an implicit criticism of the Malian authorities resulting from two coups d'etat, he reaffirms his will to continue this commitment alongside all the States which choose the fight against terrorism and respect for stability and peace. coexistence between communities in West Africa.

French soldiers from the Barkhane force patrol the streets of Timbuktu, northern Mali in December 2021.

Operation Serval launched in January 2013 against jihadist groups who had conquered the north of the country and threatened to descend on Bamako, the capital, succeeded in August 2014 Barkhane, targeting the jihadists scattered in the countries of the Sahelo-Saharan strip, which mobilized up to 5,500 men on the land in 2020.

This military presence in the Sahel will be halved by the end of the year, to around 2,500 soldiers. Niger has accepted the maintenance of an air base in Niamey and the support of 250 soldiers for its military operations on the Malian border.

Chad will continue to host a French hold in N'Djamena and France hopes to retain a contingent of special forces in Ouagadougou, the Burkinabé capital. Paris is discussing with other West African countries to offer its support, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea.

But French military interventions will move towards less posed and less exposed devices, said Emmanuel Macron on July 13.

Anti- French in the capital of Mali, Bamako, in February 2022.

This is in particular to avoid the crystallization among the populations of hostility against the former colonial power, fueled by the persistence of insecurity and stoked, according to Paris, by deliberate misinformation campaigns on social media.

This withdrawal concludes nearly a year of increasingly bitter relations between Paris and the colonels in power in Bamako since the putsch against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta in August 2020.

Bamako, which denies having appealed to Wagner, reproached the French president in July for a neo-colonial posture, according to the expression of the government spokesman, Colonel Abdoulaye Maïga, accusing him of; stir up ethnic hatred through his criticism of the Malian army.

He was reacting to remarks by Mr. Macron for whom the choices made by the Malian junta today and its de facto complicity with the Wagner militia are particularly ineffective in the fight against terrorism, that is no longer their objective.

The Malian Foreign Minister, Abdoulaye Diop, went to Moscow last May, where he was received by his counterpart Sergei Lavrov. In July, the Russian Foreign Minister toured several African countries.

In Mali, France found itself caught, according to the experts, between a political logic which dictated it to leave as quickly as possible, and a logic of military efficiency which encouraged it, on the contrary, to stay until the local armies can take over.

We now know from Afghanistan that an external operation with a lot of Western forces on the ground cannot last forever, explained to AFP a few months ago Alain Antil, specialist in the Sahel at the French Institute for International Relations (IFRI), underlining the limits of large operations, with a lot of men, a lot of presence on the ground and a lot of political visibility.

If tomorrow we switch to devices [with] more combat support from some battalions of national armies, special forces work, air support, political exposure e of France will be much less, with an efficiency that will always be there, according to him.

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