Mali conflict: Macron announces troops to leave after nine years

France and its allies in a European force will withdraw their troops from Mali after almost a decade, President Emmanuel Macron has announced.

The troops have been involved in the fight against Islamist militants in the country since 2013.

Mr. Macron said the decision to leave followed a breakdown in diplomatic relations, amid growing hostility from Mali’s governing military junta.

The forces will be re-deployed elsewhere in Africa’s Sahel region.

“We cannot remain militarily engaged alongside de-facto authorities whose strategy and hidden aims we do not share,” Mr. Macron told a news conference in Paris on Thursday.

He denied that the mission had been a failure and insisted that France remained committed to combating Islamist insurgencies in the region. He added that Niger had agreed to host some of the withdrawing forces.

“France has played a unifying role in this international mobilization in favor of the Sahel,” he said. “We will continue to ensure this unifying role.”

The planned withdrawal, which is expected to happen over a four- to six-month period, was announced following a meeting of European and African leaders at the Élysée Palace on Wednesday night.

In a statement released on Thursday morning, countries involved in the French-led Takuba Task Force said they had agreed to set out plans on how to remain actively involved in the region, most notably in Niger and the Gulf of Guinea countries, by June.

Colonel Souleymane Dembélé, a spokesman for the ruling junta, shrugged off France’s announcement, telling reporters that while European forces were in the country “terrorism engulfed the entire Malian territory”.

Almost 5,000 French troops are deployed in the Sahel region to combat Islamist insurgencies as part of Operation Barkhane, with around 2,400 of those located at three bases in northern Mali.

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