President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that France would withdraw its troops from Mali, after nine years of trying to drive Islamic extremists from power but intending to maintain a military presence in neighboring West Africa.
Announcing the move at a press conference in Paris, Macron accused Mali’s ruling military junta of ignoring the fight against Islamic extremists, adding that the logical course of action for France was to withdraw because its role was not to replace a sovereign state on the battlefield.
“We started closing bases in northern Mali and then continued gradually, the maneuver would take four to six months,” Macron outlined.
France has about 4,300 troops in the Sahel region, including 2,400 in Mali.
Macron said the French troop withdrawal would be carried out “in an orderly manner” and in coordination with the Malian military.
Tensions have risen between Mali, its African neighbors and the European Union, especially after the West African country’s transitional government allowed Russian mercenaries to be stationed on its territory.
Macron said the coalition of allies would remain present in the Sahel and the Gulf of Guinea to counter the actions of Al-Qaeda and ISIS. [mg/jm]