France begins military withdrawal from Mali

France closes military base in Menaka, relocates troops to Niger.

France begins military withdrawal from Mali

France has started withdrawing its troops from Mali with the handover of the Menaka base to the Malian forces, the general staff of defense announced on Monday.

“The transfer was conducted in an orderly, safe and transparent manner. Focus on this important element of Barkhane operation which provided security in the Three Borders and Southern Liptako region,” the general staff said on Twitter.

The transfer is part of the framework set by President Emmanuel Macron in February in order to rearticulate the Barkhane Force outside Mali, a statement from the Defense Ministry said.

France had deployed an estimated 4,600 soldiers under Operation Barkhane which was launched in 2014 to fight terrorism in the G5 countries of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mauritania.

The French forces have now relocated the military logistics from Menaka to 1,340 kilometers (833 miles) away to the Projected Air Base (BAP) of Niamey in Niger, where it will continue anti-terrorism operations in the Sahel region.

The French army said it has invested several million euros in development projects for vital infrastructure, education, youth and health of the local population which supported the Barkhane Force to undertake the operations.

In April, after French troops handed over a military base at Gossi, the Malian army accused France of covering a “mass grave" on the premises. France denied the allegations.

Amid hostile relations with France, Mali’s military government in May revoked the defense cooperation treaty agreement governing the status of French forces (SOFA) and ordered the French troops as well as the European forces under Takuba to leave the country.

Hüseyin Demir