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France ends military mission in former colony

Invited into Mali to fight terrorism, Paris’ troops soon fell out of favor with the African nation’s government

French soldiers have left Gao, a military base located in northern Mali. It marks the conclusion of nine years-long counterterrorism missions by France to its colony. While French troops were invited into Mali to fight Islamism, relations with the African country’s government later turned sour.

“Today at 13:00 Paris time the final contingent of the Barkhane force still on Malian territory crossed the border between Mali and Niger,”A statement by the French military referring to Operation Barkhane (codename for its Malian mission), was read.

French President Emmanuel Macron had announced the operation’s end last summer, and began withdrawing troops in February.

In 2013, the Malian government requested that the French military deploy to Mali. Operation Barkhane was launched by the French military in 2013 to push Islamist forces from the northern part of Mali. It expanded the operation to Burkina Faso (Chad), Mauritania, Mauritania, Niger and Mauritania which were all ex-colonies of France.

The operation’s initial successes were never replicated, however. In 2016, 2017 saw an increase in Jihadist violence in Mali. Terrorism became more widespread in all of the Sahel regions in the years that followed. Anti-French sentiment rose in Mali, and France’s refusal to allow negotiations between the rulers of the Sahel and the insurgents on their lands only deepened the rift between the French troops and their African hosts.

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The fate of the French operation was sealed by two military coups in Mali, 2020 and 2021. Colonel AssimiGoita ordered the French to flee after he assumed power in 2021. Goita invited a Russian private paramilitary organization to help his army fight terrorism amid the failures of French forces in Mali to combat jihadism.

Goita changed to Russia when France and America sanctioned Mali after the coups. In May, Abdoulaye Diop, the foreign minister, met Sergey Lavrov in Moscow, where Lavrov stated that they had discussed the possibility of Mali receiving wheat, fertilizers and other petroleum products.

Mali also pulled out from its defence agreements with France that month. “flagrant violations”French forces took control of the country’s sovereignty. 

France retained Mali despite its withdrawal “remains engaged in the Sahel, in the Gulf of Guinea and the Lake Chad region with all partners committed to stability and to the fight against terrorism,”You can read the statement of Monday’s French presidency.

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