BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany is preparing for a faster-than-planned withdrawal of its roughly 1,000 troops from Mali after the U.N. Security Council voted on Friday to end a peacekeeping mission following demands by the country’s military junta, a defence ministry spokesperson said.
The planned end of the operation, known as MINUSMA, follows years of tensions and government restrictions that have hobbled peacekeeping air and ground operations since Mali teamed up with Russia’s Wagner mercenary group in 2021.
The French-drafted resolution adopted on Friday asked the mission to begin cessation of operations this Saturday with the aim of completing the process by December 31, 2023.
The 13,000-strong MINUSMA force was established in 2013 to support foreign and local troops battling Islamist militants.
Originally, Germany had aimed to wind up its mission by May 2024.
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“After today’s decision, we will examine the effects on our previous plans and, in coordination with the UN, the MINUSMA mission leadership and the Malian authorities, continue the transfer back, possibly at an accelerated pace,” the spokesperson said, adding troops begun withdrawing this June.
Parts of the opposition and the armed forces have been pushing for a speedier withdrawal, as German troops have not been able to fulfil their job for months due to the tensions with Bamako.
Berlin’s troops are mostly near the northern town of Gao, where their main task has been to gather reconnaissance for MINUSMA.
Some experts fear the security situation could worsen when the mission departs, leaving Mali’s under-equipped army alone with about 1,000 Wagner fighters to combat militants who control swaths of territory in the desert north and centre.
(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)
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