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Thursday, February 22, 2024

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UK Withdraws Forces From Mali Peacekeeping Mission

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Britain announced on Monday that it was withdrawing its peacekeeping force from Mali, reasoning that the country’s increasing dependence on Russian mercenaries undermines consistency.

British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said that the British force of 300 soldiers deployed in Mali since 2020 under a United Nations peacekeeping mission will vacate the area earlier than planned.

Heappey told members of the parliament that “responsibility for all of this sits in Bamako,” the capital of Mali. He said, “Two coups in three years have undermined international efforts to advance peace.”

Relations have increasingly strained between Mali, its African neighbors, and the West after its government allowed Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group to be positioned on its land.

Heappey called Russian mercenaries “a bunch of murderous, human rights-abusing thugs.”

He said, “The Wagner Group is linked to mass human rights abuses and the Malian government’s partnership with the Wagner Group is counterproductive to lasting stability and security in their region.”

France had announced initially this year that it was withdrawing its huge force from Mali after relations worsened with a junta that seized power in 2020. France, which had colonized Mali from 1892-1960, established a nine-year mission and had 5,500 troops in the country to fight Islamic militants.

Mali has been facing chaos since a 2012 rebellion when rebellious soldiers overthrew the president. The power vacuum consequently led to a jihadist insurgency against whom France led a war and finally threw the jihadists out of power in 2013.

Insurgents are still active in Mali, and since 2015, extremist groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State have migrated from the country’s arid north to its more populous center, inciting hostility and violence between the various ethnic groups there.

Heappey said Britain remained supportive of Mali and the overall Sahel region. He also talked about meeting colleagues from across Europe and West Africa in Ghana next week “to coordinate our renewed response to instability in the Sahel.”

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