As it happened

Macron announces French troop withdrawal from Mali

French President Emmanuel Macron, flanked by Ghana's President Nana Afuko Addo, Senegal's President Macky Sall, and European Council President Charles Michel, holds a joint press conference on France's engagement in the Sahel region, at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France, February 17, 2022.
French President Emmanuel Macron, flanked by Ghana's President Nana Afuko Addo, Senegal's President Macky Sall, and European Council President Charles Michel, holds a joint press conference on France's engagement in the Sahel region, at the Elysee Palace, in Paris, France, February 17, 2022. © PA-EFE/IAN LANGSDON, Pool via REUTERS

In a joint announcement from the Élysée Palace on Thursday, France and allied nations announced that they were withdrawing troops from Mali due to a breakdown in relations with the ruling junta after nine years of fighting a jihadist insurgency. Read FRANCE 24's live coverage of the day’s events as they unfolded.

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After a French-led military intervention ousted jihadists who were taking control of northern Mali in 2013, French troops remained to provide support for anti-terrorist operations. But deteriorating relations with Mali's new military leaders, who seized power in a 2020 coup, prompted France to reconsider its role in the country. 

"Multiple obstructions" by the ruling junta meant that the conditions were no longer in place to operate in Mali, said a joint statement signed by France and its African and European allies.

“Victory against terror is not possible if it’s not supported by the state itself,” the French leader told a press conference alongside European Union and African Union officials. 

Macron added that he "completely" rejected the idea that France had failed in its mission in the country.

The withdrawal applies to both 2,400 French troops in Mali and a smaller European force of several hundred that was created in 2020 with the aim of lessening the burden on French forces.

The Mali deployment has been fraught with problems for France. Out of the 53 French soldiers killed serving in West Africa, 48 of them died in Mali.

Macron said that French bases in Gossi, Menaka and Gao would close but vowed the withdrawal would be carried out in an "orderly" manner.

African and Western leaders met in Paris late Wednesday to begin fleshing out plans for how to continue fighting Islamist militants in the region amid new fears of a jihadist push toward the Gulf of Guinea.

Recent coups in Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso have weakened French alliances and emboldened jihadists who control large swathes of the region. 

12:30 pm Paris time: Germany 'sceptical' over future of its training mission in Mali 

Germany's Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said on Thursday she was "very sceptical" whether Berlin would remain part of a European military training mission in Mali, hours after France said it was withdrawing its troops.

"We have taken note of the French decision to leave Mali and end its mission there, which will of course have repercussions for its partners," Lambrecht told reporters.

"I have to say I am very sceptical whether there will be an extension of the mandate for participation in EUTM," she added, referring to the EU military training mission.

Germany has around 1,500 soldiers in Mali – about 1,200 for the United Nations' MINUSMA peacekeeping mission and the rest for the EU training mission

11:40 am Paris time: UN says French, allied pull-out from Mali will 'impact' peacekeepers

France's planned military withdrawal from Mali is "bound to impact" the UN's peacekeeping mission in the troubled Sahel state, the United Nations said on Thursday. Olivier Salgado, the spokesman for the MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in Mali, told AFP that the UN was studying the impact of the pull-out and would "take the necessary steps to adapt."

10:50 am Paris time: Wagner in Mali to secure 'their business interests and the junta', says Macron

Mercenaries from the Russian private military company Wagner are in Mali "to secure their business interests and the junta" in power in Bamako, French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday. "This is the hiring by the Malian junta, using financing which they themselves will have to explain to the Malian people, of mercenaries who are essentially there to secure their own business interests and protect the junta itself," Macron told a Paris press conference.

10:15 am Paris time: Not the right time to end UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, says Ghana's president

Ghana's president Nana Akufo-Addo on Thursday said it was important that a UN peacekeeping force continue to operate in Mali even after French forces pull out of the country and are re-deployed elsewhere in the Sahel.

The United Nations have managed the peacekeeping mission MINUSMA since 2013.

10:00 am Paris time: Mali troop withdrawal will take ‘four to six months’

France's military withdrawal from Mali will take four to six months, during which time there will be fewer operations against Islamist militants in the Sahel, President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday.

"The heart of this military operation will no longer be in Mali but in Niger," Macron told a press conference in Paris. Macron added that France's Sabre special forces would remain posted in Burkina Faso, where a military junta is also in power.

9:53 am Paris time: African countries can’t fight Sahel terrorism alone, says Senegal’s President

The fight against Islamist insurgencies in the Sahel cannot be the sole responsibility of African countries, Senegal's President Macky Sall said on Thursday during the same news conference. "We have agreed with Europe that the struggle against terrorism in the Sahel cannot be the business of African countries alone, there's a consensus on this," Sall said in Paris, standing next to French President Emmanuel Macron.

9:50 am Paris time: Macron 'totally refuses' to label France’s military operations in Mali a 'failure'

French President Emmanuel Macron said he "totally refuses" to call French military operations in Mali a "failure". "I completely reject this term," Macron told a press conference in Paris. Macron said that at the time, Mali had requested France deploy troops to counter an Islamist insurgency that was headed towards the capital and in doing so had prevented the state from collapsing.

He said instead that the attitudes of Mali's ruling junta had forced France to pull out. "We cannot remain militarily engaged alongside de-facto authorities whose strategy and hidden aims we do not share," Macron told reporters, adding he "completely" rejected the idea that France had failed in its former colony after an almost decade-long operation.

 

9:35 am Paris time: Sahel now 'a priority' area for al Qaeda, IS group expansion

Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group have made the Sahel region of West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea nations "a priority for their strategy of expansion," French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday. "They are investing there and exploiting local causes in order to better pursue their global and regional agenda," he said, therefore justifying an ongoing French and EU military presence in the region despite a pull-out from Mali.

9:30 am Paris time: Macron says Niger has agreed to host European troops 

As France and its partners announced the start of a military pull out of Mali after a decade of anti-jihadist operations there, President Emmanuel Macron said Niger had agreed to host European forces fighting Islamist militants.

He also said the remaining forces would provide further assistance for countries in the Gulf of Guinea. "These states are increasingly exposed to efforts by terrorist groups to implant themselves in their territory," Macron told a press conference in Paris.

9:00 am Paris time: France, partners announce start of military withdrawal from Mali

France and its allies in the Barkhane and Takuba anti-jihadist operations in Mali on Thursday announced a "coordinated withdrawal" of their forces due to "multiple obstructions" by its ruling military junta. In a joint statement, Paris as well as other EU nations and Canada vowed to pursue "joint action against terrorism in the Sahel region, including in Niger and in the Gulf of Guinea" by June 2022.

"Due to multiple obstructions by the Malian transitional authorities, Canada and the European States operating alongside Operation Barkhane and within the Task Force Takuba deem that the political, operational and legal conditions are no longer met to effectively continue their current military engagement in the fight against terrorism in Mali," the statement said. The allies therefore "decided to commence the coordinated withdrawal of their respective military resources dedicated to these operations from Malian territory."

7:10 am Paris time: Pull-out announcement expected ahead of EU-Africa summit in Brussels

Four European diplomatic sources told Reuters that an announcement on the withdrawal of France's Barkhane operation and European Takuba special forces from Mali would be made ahead of a European Union-Africa summit in Brussels on Thursday.

The decision follows a deterioration in French relations with Mali after its military junta reneged on a deal to organise elections in February, proposing to hold power until 2025. Mali has also accepted a deployment of Russian private military contractors, dismaying some European countries who say the Russian presence is incompatible with their mission.

6:55 am Paris time: Macron to hold press conference on 'France's engagement in the Sahel'

French President Emmanuel Macron is to travel to Brussels Thursday for a two-day EU-Africa summit. But the French presidency announced he would first hold a press conference at 9am local time on "France's engagement in the Sahel" at the Élysée Palace, where he is likely to make the formal announcement.

6:40 am Paris time: Macron hosts African leaders ahead of expected withdrawal

President Emmanuel Macron welcomed African leaders for dinner in Paris Wednesday ahead of an expected announcement that France is withdrawing its troops from Mali after nearly 10 years fighting a jihadist insurgency in the region. Multiple sources have told AFP that Macron will announce that French forces will leave Mali and redeploy elsewhere in the Sahel region.

The working dinner hosted by Macron on Wednesday brought together the leaders of France's key allies in the Sahel region – Chad, Mauritania and Niger. Officials from Mali and Burkina Faso, the latter of which also recently underwent a coup d'état, were not invited.

Other African leaders were also present along with European Council President Charles Michel, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP & REUTERS)

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