Emmanuel Macron confirmed France’s forces will be leaving the sub-Saharian African state after nine years since its intervention in the region. President Macron said both France’s Barkhane force in the Sahel and the Takuba European force will be relocating in nearby Niger to provide tactical support. But the announcement sparked speculation Mr Macron’s decision may leave the door open for Vladimir Putin to expand the influence of Russian mercenaries in Mali.
President Macron’s retreat announcement came only days after the French leader met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in his efforts to defuse the growing tension at the border with Ukraine.
His announcement of the upcoming retreat sparked fury as the intervention in Mali cost France the lives of 52 soldiers and millions of Euros over the course of nine years.
Saint-Mitre-les-Remparts mayor Vincent Goyet said: “France leaves Mali, Russia settles there.
“Macron rejects the term failure: is it therefore a success? For whom: Putin and the jihadists?”
The United States expressed “great concerns” over Russia potentially expanding its influence in Mali and Sub Saharan Africa.”
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had previously hit out at Moscow for misleading his country about the presence of Russian mercenaries in the African country, which Russia has repeatedly denied.
Mr Le Drian said: “When we asked our Russian colleagues about Wagner, they said they don’t know anything (about it).
“When it comes to mercenaries who are Russian veterans, who have Russian weapons, who are transported by Russian planes, it would be surprising if the Russian authorities did not know about it,” Le Drian said.
“We are living in a lie.”
The Malian Government said last year “Russian trainers” had been deployed to the country and settled in a base formerly occupied by the French forces.