Mali may seek new partners to replace France in terrorism fight
Mali is seeking new partners to help the country face the threat from Islamist militants as France plans to scale back its counterterrorism force in West Africa’s Sahel region.
“We’re already seeing how some of our partners are moving their forces to other countries, leaving vast territories unprotected,” Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga said at a news conference in Bamako posted on news site Le Jalon. “If those partners decide to leave entirely, shouldn’t we have a Plan B?”
Maiga’s remarks comes amid growing concerns that Mali is in talks with Russia’s Wagner Group about deploying military personnel in the country. France will leave if the Russian mercenaries are allowed to set up in Mali, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told parliament at a hearing earlier this week.
Germany, which has hundreds of peacekeepers and military trainers in Mali, also warned it would reconsider its engagement in the West African country if a contract is signed between Mali and the Wagner Group. The United Nations and Mali’s neighbors expressed similar concerns.
Le Drian called Wagner, which is headed by an ally of President Vladimir Putin, a “private militia made up of former military men” and criticized its actions in Iraq, Syria and the Central African Republic.
“We’re looking at other possibilities for collaboration to face the security threat,” Maiga said.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron said this month that he was looking to scale back a seven-year military engagement in Mali. French troops have started to leave bases in the country’s northern regions.
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