France to withdraw from Mali

France, certain European partners and Canada plan to withdraw their troops from Mali, where soldiers have been stationed for nine years to support local security forces in the fight against terrorist groups. Recently, however, these missions became a bone of contention when relations with the ruling military junta deteriorated. Europe's press approves of the withdrawal but warns of complications.

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Le Figaro (FR) /

Deployed forces can only act as firefighters

Former officer and historian Michel Goya explains in Le Figaro why France should have withdrawn from Mali earlier:

“We could not but respond to the cries for help from endangered states, but at the same time we knew that such an intervention would soon reek of neo-colonialism. Under these circumstances, a foreign military intervention can be nothing more than a firefighting operation. If the brigade puts out the fire, everyone is happy and the firefighters can leave with their heads held high. But if they don't put out the fire and then stay inside the building, they rapidly become indispensable to some, whereas others see them as incompetent or suspect. And even as intruders if they start giving advice.”

taz, die tageszeitung (DE) /

Macron's double standards partially to blame

The taz's France correspondent Rudolf Balmer is astonished that the French leadership sees no reason to accept responsibility:

“It's bewildering how the accusations of neo-colonialist arrogance have either been ignored by the French or answered with arrogant verbal counterattacks. Paris condemned the coup in Mali but did not object when in neighbouring Chad, President Idriss Déby's son Mahamat took power without elections after his father's death. Many were shocked by this double standard, and not only in Mali. Macron's government is at least partly responsible for the fact that relations with the junta in Bamako quickly deteriorated to the extent that the French ambassador was expelled.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Russia could exploit power vacuum

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung welcomes the withdrawal but fears geopolitical consequences:

“Wagner mercenaries close to the Kremlin are already in the country and will undoubtedly try to fill the security vacuum that is now being created in the Sahel state. For Europe, an expansion of Russian influence in Mali would be painful, not least from a migration policy perspective: the country lies on the most important migration route in West Africa. Losing Bamako as a partner also means losing control over migration flows in the region.”

Sydsvenskan (SE) /

Avoid future mistakes

Sweden also supported the mission in Mali and is now withdrawing its troops. Sydsvenskan welcomes the move and calls for an in-depth analysis:

“An investigation could help to avoid future mistakes. ... Foreign deployments have intrinsic value. There are real security policy problems to be solved. Ultimately, this is all about people. Those who are the subject of the operation and those who carry it out. ... That is why it is also important to put an end to this less than successful campaign. If Swedish soldiers can no longer fulfil their mission, there is the danger that foreign missions will lose the support of the population on which they depend.”