France’s Military Withdrawal from Mali

France's Military Withdrawal from Mali
French Bharkane element repositioning to Niamey, Niger 19-19 March via Franch MOD


French and EU military forces will leave Mali in the next 6 months due to multiple obstructions’ by the current Malian regime. It is highly likely that the French military withdrawal will have two main consequences. First, mercenaries from the Wagner Group will increase their presence in the region. Second, that violence will spread even more in Sahel’s countries. 

KJ-1 It is almost certain that French troops will relocate in other Sahel’s countries in the next 6 months.

  • French forces have been active in Mali since 2013 where they intervened to fight against terrorist groups affiliated to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. [source]
  • France’s campaign has been going badly. In 2020 more than 6.000 people were killed in conflict in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. Terrorists continue to recruit and grow and they are spreading in states such as Benin and Ivory Coast. [source]
  • On February 17th, France announced that ‘due to multiple obstructions’ by the current Malian regime it would withdraws its 2.400 troops from Mali. The main cause of the withdrawal is that the junta that removed the elected government in 2020, has led a second coup in 2021. Emmanuel Macron said that ‘victory against terror is not possible if it’s not supported by the state itself’. [source]
  • European leaders announced on the same week that troops from a EU-led military task force (Takuba) will withdraw from Mali. EU and France forces are expected to leave Mali in the next 6 months. [source]
  • Macron said that even though military forces are withdrawing from Mali, they are not abandoning the country. Military forces will restructure their presence in the Sahel region. EU and France forces are highly likely to relocate in Niger, especially in the region bordering Burkina Faso, where they will continue to counter actions from Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. [source]

KJ-2 it is highly likely that Wagner Group’s presence will increase in the region in the upcoming 6 months.

  • The Wagner Group is a Russian private military company linked to the Kremlin. [source]
  •  The military group began the deployment of forces in Mali in December 2021. Senior U.S officials said that there are between 800 – 1.000 mercenaries from the Wagner Group that have moved to Mali in recent months. [source]
  • The number of Russian mercenaries is growing and it is highly likely to continue to increase as French troops leave the country. Moreover, with the increasing instability in the Sahel region, while Wagner mercenaries train local forces, they will also try to spread Russian influence in the continent and secure financial gains. [source]
Wagner mercenaries at an undisclosed location. Picture released by the Ukrainian security service (SBU)

KJ-3 It is highly likely that violence will increase in Mali due to France’s withdrawal from the country in the following 6 months. 

  • Experts worry that France’s withdrawal from Mali will leave a security vacuum that will enable insurgents to increase their power in the country. [source]
  • Even though 2.700 militants have been killed since January 2020, terrrorists continue to recruit and grow. [source]
  • France will continue to fight terrorist groups in the region, but its task will be more difficult now. This is because terrorist groups can establish more havens in Mali due to the vacuum left by France.
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