Mali: We need Russian mercenaries, France has abandoned us
BAMAKO, ($1=558.00 XOF) – Mali Prime Minister Shogel Kokalla Maiga said that his country feels abandoned by France, so the country’s authorities are looking for other military assistance and turned to a Russian private military company [PMC], learned BulgarianMilitary.com.
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“The new situation that has arisen as a result of the end of Operation Barkhan presents Mali with a fait accompli: we were to a certain extent abandoned in the middle of the flight. This forces us to explore ways and means to better ensure our security on our own or with other partners,” he said, speaking at a session of the UN General Assembly.
According to him, this is necessary “to fill the gap” that will undoubtedly arise as a result of the completion of the anti-terrorist operation by France, code-named “Barkhan” in the north of the country.
Earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the completion of the operation in the African region of the Sahel. He noted that anti-terrorist tasks in this region will be carried out by “international forces.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference in New York that the Malian authorities have turned to a Russian PMC to help fight terrorists because France has decided to “significantly reduce its military contingent.” According to the minister, the French military “failed, and the terrorists are still running the show there.”
European Union Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said earlier that he told Lavrov and his colleague from Mali that the potential deployment of the Russian PMC Wagner in Mali would become a “red line” for the EU and would have “consequences for cooperation.”
Lavrov said that the Russian government had nothing to do with any deal between PMCs and Mali.
Earlier in September, the French TV channel TV5, citing sources in Paris, said that the Malian authorities were discussing the possibility of an agreement with PMC Wagner on the training of Malian military personnel and ensuring the security of the country’s leadership.
PMC Wagner could provoke a security crisis in Mali
It is no surprise that Russia is interested in Mali, where, at the request of the Malian authorities, France has deployed troops to combat jihadist groups there, as part of Operation Barkhane, which has spread to the entire Sahel. Since independence in 1961, Bamako had built close ties with Moscow. But these relations did not survive the collapse of the Soviet Union thirty years later.
In any case, the prospect of landing Russian mercenaries in Mali is not to the liking of Paris, which announced a major overhaul of its military apparatus in the Sahel in June. This is what Le Drian said during a hearing before the Foreign Affairs Committee in the National Assembly on September 14.
“This is completely incompatible with our presence. The intervention of a group of this type in Mali would be incompatible with the actions of Mali’s Sahelian and international partners,” Mr. Le Drian said. “They have distinguished themselves in the past, especially in Syria, in the Central African Republic, many of which “Predators, violations of all kinds [and] cannot respond to any solution,” he recalled at the time. He insisted: “In the Central African Republic, this has led to a deterioration in the security situation.”
The same day, before the deputies of the Defense Committee, the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parley, considered that if the Malian authorities signed a contract with Wagner, it would be extremely worrying and contradictory, incompatible with everything we have done for years and everything “which we intend to do in support of the Sahel countries.”
In his introductory speech, the minister recalled that there was no question of France withdrawing militarily from the Sahel.
“We are not leaving the Sahel. We continue to fight terrorism. We maintain a military system to continue to support our Sahel partners while adapting to the evolution of the threat. The transformation ordered by the President of the Republic is by no means a departure from Mali, but a reconfiguration of our forces to make them even more operational and effective. I remind you that the final deployment of French troops in the Sahel will continue to rely on the constant commitment of the French troops together with our partners. I can tell you that this will be a real, consistent, and ongoing effort for our armies,” Ms. Parly explained.
However, according to an AFP source, the arrival of PMC Wagner in Mali [there is talk of at least a thousand mercenaries] would run the risk of calling into question US support for French operations or even the European Union with the Takuba special forces group. “The United States would stop everything,” and “some European countries might also decide to give up,” she said.
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