Mali withdraws from regional Sahel force

Mali is pulling out of a multinational military force in West Africa’s Sahel region combatting an armed rebellion, the country’s military government has said.

The G5 Sahel force, which includes troops from Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania, was set up in 2017 to counter armed groups who have swept across the region in recent years, killing thousands of people and forcing millions to flee their homes.

But the force has been hobbled by a lack of funding and has struggled to reduce the violence.

The statement by Mali’s military government, which overthrew former President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, and took power in a 2020 coup, blamed a lack of progress in the fight against the armed groups and the failure to hold recent meetings in Mali.

The move further isolated Mali, which has also been slapped with sanctions from West Africa’s regional political bloc, hitting jobs and industry in the impoverished country.

This comes as anti-French sentiments continued to rise in the countryeven after the February announcement of the withdrawal of French troops in the Sahel state.

As France and its European allies left Mali in a dramatic divorce due to coups and rising anti-French sentiment, Niger was becoming the latest hub for Western militaries struggling to tackle the decade-long conflict in the Sahel region.

Last month, the Nigerien Parliament approved a bill paving the way for the redeployment of two French-led counterterrorism missions, Operation Barkhane and the European Task Force, Takuba, from Mali to the country.

Yacine Ben Mohamed, a member of the ruling coalition which voted in favour of the bill, said “Niger alone cannot lead the war against terrorism” and needed partners. “So we have made our choice, France,” the lawmaker said.

About 2,400 French soldiers and 900 Special Forces personnel in the French-led Takuba forces have left Mali due to deteriorating relations with the military government there.

Since 2012, when rebel groups in Mali began fighting against the state, the campaign of terror had spread to other countries across the Sahel, including Niger.

Various armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) have exploited local dissatisfaction, intercommunal tensions and the absence of governance to grab territories in large swaths of ungoverned areas and shake the political establishments in the Sahel capitals. -Aljazeera

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