Mali Tells UN France Is Abandoning It In Fight Against Terrorism
By Katarina Hoije
Mali Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga accused France at the United Nations of abandoning the West African country to the unfinished job of fighting a deadly Islamist insurgency.
“The armed terrorist groups that invaded almost two-thirds of our territory in 2012 have dispersed and spread without ever being wiped out,” Maiga said in a UN General Assembly speech on Saturday. “It was against this backdrop that France deployed in Mali and it’s also against this backdrop that France has suddenly decided to withdraw.”
France has said it will eventually reduce its military presence in West Africa’s Sahel region from slightly more than 5,000 troops to 2,500 to 3,000 troops. While three military bases in northern Mali will be closed by early 2022, French President Emmanuel Macron plans to back up Sahel countries’ security forces with a French-led European force.
“The new situation resulting from the end of Operation Barkhane puts Mali before a fait accompli, abandoning us mid-flight,” Maiga said.
The French withdrawal has led Mali to explore other options, according to Maiga, who spoke hours after Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in New York that Mali had approached Russian private military contractors.
“They have turned to private military companies from Russia in connection with the fact that as I understand France wants to significantly draw down its military component,” Lavrov said.