France and its allies have agreed to commence a coordinated withdrawal of troops from Mali, after relations with the military junta ruling the Western African nation deteriorated.
The French troops entered Mali in 2013 to fight al-Qaeda-linked militants, to stop them from advancing towards the capital of Bamako.
French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed the pullback, but he insisted that the French forces will continue to fight against insurgents in the region.
A joint statement from the allies said: “Due to multiple obstructions by the Malian transitional authorities, Canada and the European States, operating alongside Operation Barkhane and within the Task Force Takuba, deem that the political, operational, and legal conditions are no longer met to effectively continue their current military engagement in the fight against terrorism in Mali.”
The allies will gradually withdraw their respective troops dedicated to these operations. The withdrawal is expected to be complete in four to six months, Reuters reported, quoting President Macron.
The report added that relations between France and Mali worsened after the military government reneged on an agreement to conduct elections in February, and proposed to hold power until 2025.
The joint statement of the allied nations also committed to continuing operations against terrorism in the Sahel region, at the request of their African partners.
Political and military consultations are currently underway to establish the terms for this shared action by June 2022.
A BBC report says that France has 5,000 soldiers in the Sahel region as part of Operation Barkhane. Approximately 2,400 of these troops are located at three northern Mali bases.
Last month, the French Army awarded Saab a contract for its Barracuda multispectral camouflage systems.