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France to withdraw troops from Mali but remain in West Africa

French President Emmanuel Macron said said “We cannot remain militarily involved”. Picture by Yoan Valat/AP
Sylvie Corbet, Associated Press

President Emmanuel Macron has said France will withdraw its troops from Mali but maintain a military presence in neighbouring West African nations.

Announcing the move during a news conference in Paris on Thursday, Mr Macron said “We cannot remain militarily involved” alongside Malian transitional authorities with whom “we don’t share the strategy and goals”.

France has about 4,300 troops in the Sahel region, including 2,400 in Mali. The so-called Barkhane force is also involved in Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.

French forces have been active since 2013 in Mali, where they intervened to drive Islamic extremists from power. But the insurgents regrouped in the desert and began attacking the Malian army and its allies.

Mr Macron said support for civilians in Mali civilians will continue, but he blamed the junta now ruling the country for its decision to hire a private Russian military contractor known as the Wagner Group that the EU accuses of fomenting violence and committing human rights abuses in Africa.

The French president said a coalition of allies will remain in Sahel and the Guinea Gulf to counter actions from al Qaida and the Islamic State.

He said the fight against terrorism in the region requires “steadiness and tenacity”.

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