On September 28, France’s Armed Forces minister Florence Parly hit back at Mali’s Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga who recently accused Paris of abandoning the war on terrorism in his country.
During a speech at the UN General Assembly on September 25, Mali’s Prime Minister Choguel Maiga said that his country felt abandoned by France who is planning to cut its troops in the war-torn country from 5,000 today to between 2,500 and 3,000 by 2023.
In July, President Emmanuel Macron said that France’s Operation Barkhane in the Sahel would end with French troops operating as part of broader international efforts in the region.
Parly said that Maiga remarks at the UN were “indecent” and “unacceptable”. The minister also stressed that “there is no French pullout” from Mali.
“When you have thousands of troops on the ground …. and deploy brand-new tanks in the Sahel, that is hardly the attitude of a country that is looking for a way out,” said Parly.
The minister went on to note that Maiga remarks came only a day after a French soldier, Corporal Maxime Blasco, was killed in Mali. He was the 52th French service member to be killed in the African country while taking part in Operation Barkhane.
“I have the impression that the date [for the election] doesn’t suit them perfectly, and that they want to prolong things. But from wanting that to wiping your feet on the blood of French soldiers, it’s unacceptable,” Parly said referring to the upcoming presidential and legislative elections in Mali which should be held on 27 February 2022.
Maiga said recently that the date of the elections could be postponed. Nevertheless, Mali’s interim government remains committed to the transition period agreed upon after the 2020 coup d’état.
In response to France’s recent moves in Mali, which included the withdrawal from key bases, the country’s interim government began negotiating with Russia’s Wagner Group to hire nearly 1,000 private military contractors. The contractors would train Malian military and provide protection for senior officials.
While France warned Mali that any deal with Wagner will mean the end of its support, it has not yet back down from the decision to reduce its troops in the country.
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