President Emmanuel Macron is expected to announce France will withdraw its forces from Mali, amid a breakdown in relations with the country’s military leaders.
Macron is expected to announce the decision this week, the Reuters and AFP news agencies reported, citing diplomatic and security sources. Reuters said the decision could be announced as early as Wednesday following a top-level meeting on the Sahel region of Africa in Paris. AFP said it was likely to be announced to coincide with a European Union-African Union summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.
The pullout from Mali, with a redeployment of forces to other countries in the region, amounts to a major strategic shift by France, ending a nine-year mission that successive French presidents had argued was crucial for regional and European security.
“If the conditions are no longer in place for us to be able to act in Mali – which is clearly the case – we will continue to fight terrorism side-by-side with Sahel countries who want it,” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday.
There have been two coups in Mali since 2020 and ties have worsened since the military reneged on an agreement to organise elections in February and proposed holding onto power until 2025. The regime has also developed closer ties with Russia, including turning to suspected mercenaries from Russia’s private military contractor Wagner, and this month expelled the French ambassador.
“Tomorrow evening (Wednesday), there will be a meeting between the French president and the heads of the states of partner countries to our presence in the Sahel region in the fight against terrorism,” French government spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters.
He declined to say whether a decision had been made on withdrawing forces other than to say it would be taken in consultation with European and African partners.