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Mali Demands French, European Troops Leave Country Immediately


FILE - French Barkhane force soldiers leave their base on a transport plane in Gao, Mali, June 9, 2021, having completed a tour of duty. French President Emmanuel Macron announced at a press conference Feb. 17, 2022, that he is withdrawing French forces from the country.

The military government of Mali says France’s decision to withdraw troops is a violation of bilateral accords. At the same time, the government says it wants French forces to leave Mali immediately.

During an address from Elysee Palace Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron said the withdrawal of French and European forces from Mali would take between four and six months.

But Mali’s military government has now asked that forces with Operation Barkhane and the Takuba Task Force depart immediately.

Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga, a spokesperson for Mali’s military government, read the government’s statement on Mali’s state television station ORTM.

Maiga called France’s move a “unilateral decision,” similar to decisions that France announced last June suspending joint operations with the Malian army and ending Operation Barkhane.

These decisions, he said, were made without consultation with the Malian side and constitute flagrant violations of French-Malian agreements.

Maiga said that in view of these repeated breaches of the defense agreements, the government asks the French authorities to withdraw, without delay, Barkhane and Takuba forces from national territory, under the supervision of Malian authorities.

The French first intervened in Mali in 2013, in Operation Serval, which was aimed at taking back control of northern Mali from Islamists. Operation Serval was replaced by anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane.

The Takuba task force is a French-led European military operation of about 800 troops that was deployed in 2020. There are around 2,400 French troops currently in Mali.

Tensions between the French and Malian governments have been rising for months. France has accused Mali of working with Russian mercenaries, and Mali expelled the French ambassador in January after France’s foreign minister called Mali’s government “illegitimate.”

Mali suffered military coups in 2020 and 2021 and has been suspended from the African Union.

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