France Announces Plans to Pull Troops out of Mali

Map of the Mali Conflict. Illustration by Peter Ansell for La Jeune Politique.

Map of the Mali Conflict. Illustration by Peter Ansell for La Jeune Politique.

French President François Hollande announced Wednesday, March 6 that France would begin moving troops out of Mali as early as April of this year, a month later than was originally planned.  Hollande stated that an UN-backed African coalition would take over once the withdrawal was complete, though French presence would remain strong through March and into April.

The French military intervened on January 11 with a deployment of about 4,000 French troops, declaring war on the Islamist extremists active in volatile Northern Mali.  The conflict in the West African country has since continued to escalate with fierce fire-fights and the numerous kidnappings of international citizens in the region.  Though the French troops succeeded in driving the rebels out of Mali’s main northern cities, the fighting has intensified in the days preceding Hollande’s announcement with the possible deaths of two rebel targets from Al-Qaeda’s North African group, Abou Zeid and Mokhtar Belmokhtar.  Neither has yet been confirmed dead with DNA confirmation results pending.

Though the French army has suffered minimal causalities, four deaths so far, with the most recent soldier killed early on Wednesday March 6, the fighting has displaced thousands of Malians and has instigated what is becoming a grave humanitarian crisis.  On February 1, Amnesty International announced that there were “serious human rights breaches,” stating evidence that five civilians, three of whom were children, were killed in an airstrike by French forces.

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