Foreign troops in Sahel region
February 17, 2022 - France and its allies fighting Islamist militants in Mali have announced they will begin their military withdrawal from the country. The pullout follows Mali’s decision to allow Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group onto its territory.
Mali’s military junta dealt a severe blow to the 18,000-plus foreign troops countering jihadist insurgents in the Sahel by demanding the departure of Danish special operation forces (SOF) soldiers from the Takuba Task Force.
On Thursday (February 17, 2022), President Emmanuel Macron confirmed that France would begin its military withdrawal from Mali.
“The heart of this military operation will no longer be in Mali but in Niger,” Macron told a news conference in Paris.
On whether France’s Operation Barkhane had failed, he said: “I completely reject this term.”
European leaders also confirmed that troops from the EU-led special forces group known as the Takuba Task Force will withdraw from Mali, citing “multiple obstructions by the Malian transitional authorities.”
Takuba has around 600 SOF personnel, with half coming from France: the 1st Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment, the Penfentenyo Commando and the 4th Special Forces Helicopter Regiment.
Sweden has contributed 150 SOF from Särskilda Operationsgruppen (Special Operations Group). Ninety-five SOF from Estonia and 60 from Group 601 from the Czech Republic. The additional Danish 100 elite troops would have significantly boosted the Takuba’s capabilities.
A key question still to be answered will be the futures of the 12,700 troops in the UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA) and the European Union’s Training Mission in Mali (EUTM). They both rely on French medical, aerial and emergency reinforcement support.
- France to begin Mali military exit, raising fear of emboldening jihadists (Reuters)
- Task Force Takuba: European Special Forces In The Sahel (Grey Dynamics)
- Foreign Troops Fighting Jihadists in the Sahel Face Criticism as Terror Grows (Council on Foreign Relations)
- Sweden to withdraw from French-led special forces mission in Mali (Reuters)