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France completes Mali withdrawal

The last helicopter hangar at the French base in Gao is taken down (a photograph released on 7 August). (Armée Française - Opération Barkhane)

The French military announced on 15 August that it has completed its withdrawal from Mali, saying the last unit from its main base at Gao had crossed into Niger earlier that day.

It said that the “major logistical challenge” was completed in less than six months after it was ordered by President Emmanuel Macron on 17 February and stressed that it remained committed to fighting terrorism in the Sahel in close co-ordination with its African partners.

The decision to withdraw from Mali was prompted by successive coups in Bamako in 2020 and 2021 and the resulting military-led transitional government's decision to turn to Russia for support. Meanwhile, there has been growing popular resentment of the French military presence and the perceived lack of progress it had made against the various militant groups operating in Mali since the intervention to stabilise the country in 2013.

The transitional government's relations with the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) have also deteriorated, with it suspending all troop rotations on 14 July, after it arrested 49 Ivorian soldiers who were deployed to Bamako to support their country's peacekeeping contingent in July. The Ivorians have reportedly been charged with undermining state security.

The German military announced on 12 August that its MINUSMA contingent had been forced to suspend its reconnaissance mission and CH-53 helicopter flights because of the Malian government's refusal to approve flights for troop rotations.

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