France to withdraw troops if Mali falls into ‘radical Islamism’ – POLITICO
France to withdraw troops from Mali if the African country, which recently saw its second military coup in nine months, turns towards radical Islamism, President Emmanuel Macron said in the Journal du Dimanche (JDD) Sunday newspaper.
“Radical Islamism in Mali with our soldiers there? Never, ”Macron told JDD. “There is this temptation today in Mali. But if it goes in that direction, I will withdraw.
France has 5,000 soldiers deployed in Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania and Niger – all former French colonies – as part of Operation “Barkhane” launched in 2014 to counter jihadist groups.
Earlier this week, France and the EU condemned a “Unacceptable coupAfter the interim president of Mali Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane were detained at a base outside the capital Bamako. The two leaders were tasked with overseeing a return to democratic elections after a coup in August.
Islamist groups linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State control large parts of northern and central Mali, carrying out attacks against the army and civilians.
On Sunday, Macron told the JDD that he had sent a message to the Malian authorities that he “would not stay with a country where there is neither democratic legitimacy nor transition”.
Macron also warned that Europe “will pay dearly in terms of migration” if Africa’s development fails. The French president spoke to the newspaper during a three-day trip to Africa this week that took him to Rwanda and South Africa.