France’s defense minister, Florence Parly, responded to Malian Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga on Monday, rejecting the African leader’s “unacceptable” claims that Paris is abandoning the Sahel region by withdrawing troops.
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday, Maiga accused France of abandoning Mali by ending Operation Barkhane “before a fait accompli,” as France prepares to end the military campaign early next year.
Addressing the accusation at a conference in Paris, Parly slammed Maiga, declaring the claims are “indecent” and “unacceptable,” highlighting how they came a day after a French soldier was killed on operational duties in the region. Since France became involved in the region in 2013, Paris has reported 52 fatalities among its troops.
“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,” Parly stated.
French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed in July that the operation would be wrapped up “in an orderly fashion,” as the nation seeks to bring a close to the war against Islamist insurgents, ongoing since 2014. While France has claimed its military presence in the region has been agreed on following “consultations with the Sahel and Mali authorities,” Maiga claims Paris made a “unilateral announcement” to reduce troop numbers.
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To address “the gap” that Mali claims is being left by Paris, Maiga has turned to other nations for support. The Malian prime minister is reportedly considering hiring around 1,000 mercenaries to support his military in the region, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov confirming a deal is being negotiated between Mali and a Moscow-based private security firm. Lavrov said it was a private arrangement that has “nothing to do” with the Russian government.
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