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French troops leaving Mali following 9 yr deployment

BAMAKO, Mali: Mali’s ruling junta has announced that it is breaking its defense pacts with France and other European countries, which were signed nearly a decade ago to help the Malian military stop a jihadist offensive.

Junta spokesperson Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga said, in a televised statement, that for some time Mali had noticed “a profound deterioration in military cooperation with France.”

According to Mali authorities, the government informed France of their decision to end the Status of Force Agreements (Sofa), which aimed to create the framework for the French Barkhane operation deployed in 2013 to help the Malian military fight jihadists in the north of the country, as well as the European Takuba forces deployed in 2020.

Maiga said the decision to revoke Sofa will take effect immediately, while the end of the cooperation agreement with France will take six months to implement.

France has not issued an official reaction to the announcement.

Referring to France’s decision to end joint operations with Mali forces in June 2021, Maiga accused the European country of “flagrant violations of Mali’s national sovereignty.”

France’s decision to pull its troops out of the country in February of this year was made “again with no consultation with Malian partners,” he added, highlighting several instances of French forces violating the country’s airspace.

Following protests over the government’s handling of the war against the jihadists, the relationship between France and Mali has deteriorated since the junta, which took power in August 2020, resisted international pressure to plan the return to civilian rule.

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France has also criticized the junta’s relationship with a Russian-linked security company, which it says is providing mercenaries in Mali.