what to remember from Emmanuel Macron’s announcements on the withdrawal of the French army from Mali

Nine years after the launch of the Serval military operation in Mali, President Emmanuel Macron confirmed the withdrawal “ordered” French troops. The announcement was made Thursday, February 17, before the opening of a European Union-African Union summitin Brussels.

At a time when France and its European partners are being pushed out by the junta in power in Bamako, the French army has taken the toll of 53 dead soldiers in its ranks. Some 4,600 French soldiers are deployed in the Saharo-Sahelian strip, including 2,400 in Mali.

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Recognizing the “unifying role” of France in this international mobilization of 25,000 men and women, Emmanuel Macron underlined the “message of continuity to our commitment to the fight against terrorism in the Sahel”. Here is what to remember from the announcements of the President of the Republic.

Soldiers will be redeployed from Mali to Niger

“France and its partners engaged in counter-terrorism missions, namely the participants in the Takuba task force, have taken the decision to withdraw their military presence in Mali”, announced Emmanuel Macron. This withdrawal will be made “in an orderly manner with the Malian armies and with the United Nations mission in Mali”.

During this period, European military special forces Takuba “will be repositioned alongside the Nigerien armed forces in the border region of Mali”.

“We cannot remain militarily engaged alongside de facto authorities whose strategy or hidden objectives we share neither. This is the situation we are facing today in Mali”, estimated the president in reference to the junta in power in the country since the putsch of May 2021the second in less than a year. “The fight against terrorism cannot justify everything. It must not, under the pretext of being an absolute priority, turn into an exercise in the indefinite preservation of the to be able to”he added.

Three French military units will close

After Kidal, Tessalit and Timbuktu in 2021, the French “holds” of Gossi, Ménaka and Gao will therefore close, according to the president. On the other hand, the security missions of the UN mission Minusma will continue. Created in 2013, Minusma brings together 55 contributing countries for more than 15,000 men and women deployed in Mali.

In the coming weeks and months, a “support” will be provided “to each of the countries of the region on the basis of the needs [qu’ils] will have expressed”. This support can be assistance in terms of training, the supply of equipment, and even support for their operations against terrorism”.

“The expectations of our partners have changed. The sensitivity of public opinion in the countries of the region has also changed”, noted Emmanuel Macron. It takes “draw the consequences” and “to refocus at the request of our partners, where our contribution is expected”.

Asked about the timetable for the withdrawal of French forces, Emmanuel Macron estimated that the closure of the bases in Mali was going “take four to six months”. As a reminder, this morning, the Elysée mentioned “June 2022” as a deadline for defining the new system in the Sahel.

At the end of the withdrawal, the number of French soldiers deployed in the Sahel will be 2,500 to 3,000 men, against 4,600 currently, according to the spokesman for the French army general staff, Colonel Pascal Ianni, interviewed by the AFP.

Aid programs should not fund mercenaries or terrorism

For the French president, the fight against terrorism “nor can it justify an escalation of violence through the use of mercenaries whose abuses are documented in the Central African Republic and whose exercise of force is not framed by any rule or convention.” Indeed, on February 14, the head of French diplomacy, Jean-Yves Le Drian, estimated that a thousand Russian Wagner mercenaries were now in Mali. During his press conference, Emmanuel Macron accused them of securing the ruling junta in Bamako.

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Support for various programs is conditional on them “cannot be diverted to finance mercenary activities or terrorism itself”. This concerns in particular the maintenance of support for the UN mission for stabilization in Mali Minusma and commitments to the Malian populations of the Sahel Alliance.

Gulf of Guinea countries will be more involved in the fight against terrorism

Following attacks in northern Benin, Emmanuel Macron wishes to involve and supportmore neighboring countries, the Sahelian strip, namely the countries of the Gulf of Guinea”. In fact, these states are “more and more exposed to attempts by terrorist groups to establish themselves on their territory”.

In addition to the G5 Sahel and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Accra initiative must become a “framework”without “create new regional structures”, to fight terrorism. This initiative brings together Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and Benin.

Civil and social programs will be deployed for the populations

If the civilian populations of the Sahel are “the first target of the abuses of Al-Qaeda and Daesh”, “eHowever, they cannot be reduced to the role of victim”, believes Emmanuel Macron. They are also the “bulwark against these groups [terroristes]. This “civil outburst” can only be treated “through the too narrow prism of security”.

It will be “deploy civil and social programs”Who “will prevent the expansion of terrorist groups and consolidate the strategies of national authorities”. The President also recalled the coordination work of the Alliance for the Sahel, which “brings together (…) more than 25 partners, including soon the United States, 22 billion [d’euros] of financial commitment, several thousand projects”.

Emmanuel Macron rejects any failure in Mali

President “reject completely” the idea of ​​a French failure in Mali, affirming that this presence has “avoided the worst”. “What would have happened in 2013 if France had not chosen to intervene? You would certainly have a collapse of the Malian state”he argued, before emphasizing “many successes”such as the elimination of the emir of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqmi) in June 2020.

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