BAMAKO, Mali: French troops are preparing to leave the Republic of Mali following a nine year deployment to bring stability to the distant northern part of the revolt-stricken and poor African nation.
The French army’s Mali deployment in 2012 was ordered by then-French President Francois Hollande, in a bid to suppress Al-Qaeda- or IS-affiliated rebel groups operating in Mali’s dry northern region.
The French troop deployment, reaching some 5,100 soldiers, provided assistance to the regional governments as well as ill-prepared troops, to combat the rising menace of Islamic insurgents who had claimed the lives of several thousand people.
“We’re training Malian forces in holding their ground and in guiding air support before they take over from us,” Captain Florian, the officer handling the exit of troops in Timbuktu, told the Agency France Press.
President of France Emmanuel Macron declared a massive withdrawal of the French army five months ago and has pinned hopes on troops from the European Union pitching in to back what he perceives to be a crucial anti-terrorism task to ensure Europe’s safety.
“We were around 5,000 soldiers in the Sahel in summer 2021. We will be around 3,000 in summer 2022,” according to General Laurent Michon, commanding France’s operation Barkhane in Sahel, as quoted by Agency France Press.