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France and European allies to withdraw troops from Mali but remain in region

This file photo taken on March 27, 2019 shows a French armoured vehicle driving by helicopters during the start of the French Barkhane Force operation.   -  
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DAPHNE BENOIT/AFP or licensors -

Mali

**French president and European allies announced their withdrawal from Mali, on Thursday, vowing to remain in Sahel.**According to the French general staff, around 2,500 to 3,000 French soldiers will remain in Sahel following their withdrawal from Mali that should take place within a 6-month period.

France and European allies are to withdraw troops from Mali. French President Emmanuel Macron announced the strategic move on Thursday after talks with European counterparts participating in the fight against terrorism.

A working dinner had gathered Sahelian presidents and EU leaders to discuss the matter on Wednesday. In a statement, they mentionned "multiple obstructions" by the transitional government of Mali.

"France and its partners involved in counter-terrorism missions, namely the states involved in the Takuba Task Force, have decided to withdraw their military presence in Mali, President Emmanuel Macron said. This withdrawal will result in the closure of the holdings in Gossi, Ménaka and Gao. It will be carried out in an orderly fashion, with the Malian armed forces and the UN mission in Mali."

Fight against jihadists

The news comes after a nearly decade-long fight against jihadist insurgents. AU chairperson President Macky Sall insisted on the necessity to rely on a joint African-European action to eliminate terrorism: "We have agreed with Europe that the fight against terrorism in the Sahel cannot be a matter for African countries alone. In addition, on this there is a consensus and it is fortunate that a commitment has been renewed to remain in the region and to reorganize the mechanism."

France initially sent troops against jihadists in Mali in 2013 but the insurgency was never fully quelled and extended in neighboring countries. Over the years, the military operations had grown unpopular in Mali and in France who lost 53 soldiers. 

Over 25,000 foreign troops

President Emmanuel Macron said France will maintain a military presence in neighboring West African nations. The so-called Barkhane force involved in Mali also operates in Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.The Takuba task force is made up of several hundred special forces troops from about a dozen European countries, including France. There are 25,000 foreign troops currently deployed in the Sahel region.

According to the French general staff, around 2,500 to 3,000 French soldiers will remain in Sahel following their withdrawal from Mali that should take place within a 6-month period.

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