France to pull troops from Mali after decade-long jihadist fight
French President Emmanuel Macron 'completely rejects' the idea that France failed its mission in the country
France announced Thursday that it would withdraw its troops from Mali over a breakdown in relations with the country's ruling junta, after nearly 10 years of fighting a jihadist insurgency that still poses a major threat to the West African nation and beyond.
The deployment has been fraught with problems for France - of the 53 French soldiers killed serving in West Africa's Sahel region, 48 died in Mali.
"Multiple obstructions" by the military junta that took power in August 2020 meant the conditions were no longer in place to operate in Mali, said a statement signed by France and its African and European allies.
The decision applies to both the 2,400 French troops in Mali, where France first deployed in 2013, and a smaller European force of several hundred soldiers, called Takuba, that was created in 2020 with the aim of taking the burden off French forces.
"We cannot remain militarily engaged alongside de facto authorities whose strategy and hidden aims we do not share," President Emmanuel Macron told a news conference, saying that he "completely" rejected the idea that France failed its mission in the country.
He said that France's bases in Gossi, Menaka and Gao in Mali would be closed within the next four to six months.
The withdrawal would be carried out in an "orderly" manner, he vowed.
The announcement comes at a critical time for Macron, just days before he is expected to make a long-awaited declaration that he will stand for a second term at elections in April.
Macron's priority will now be to ensure that the withdrawal does not invite comparisons with the chaotic US departure from Afghanistan last year.