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EU anti-terror force Takuba leaves junta-controlled Mali

#antiterror #force #Takuba #leaves #juntacontrolled #Mali

The French-led EU special forces task force Takuba has officially ceased operations in Mali, France announced on Friday, ending a year-long anti-jihadist effort that turned sour after two military coups toppled the civilian government.

Takuba, which operates with France’s Barkhane Mission, was formed after President Emmanuel Macron sought more help from European allies for the anti-terrorist campaign in the Sahel.

French army spokesman General Pascal Ianni told journalists that Barkhane and Takuba had shown what “Europeans can achieve together in complicated security environments,” with on-the-ground experiences crucial to future joint operations.

But “the reorganization of the French military presence in the Sahel … led to the end of operations for Takuba in Mali on June 30,” he said.

Announced in late 2019, Takuba at its peak brought together nearly 900 elite troops from nine of France’s allies – Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden.

Alongside the Barkhane force, which at one point reached 5,100 troops, Takuba aimed to train and reinforce local armies attempting to counter bloody uprisings linked to al-Qaeda or the Islamic State group.

But despite tactical successes such as the killing of some senior jihadist leaders, the governments of the so-called G5 Sahel countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – are struggling to contain attacks on military and civilian targets.

In Mali in particular, two military coups in August 2020 and May 2021 led to diplomatic tensions with France.

The deterioration accelerated as the ruling junta in Bamako forged closer ties with Moscow and hired military personnel, whom France says are mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group.

Macron announced a full withdrawal of Barkhane and Takuba from Mali in February, but said French forces would remain in the Sahel in a new configuration.

Since then, ISIS-affiliated jihadists, whose power in the Sahel was once thought to be waning, have expanded their reach while carrying out an unprecedented series of massacres of civilians.

Mali continues to be supported by a United Nations peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA, which includes around 13,000 soldiers and nearly 2,000 police officers.

MINUSMA’s mandate was extended by a further year by the Security Council on Wednesday.

However, the force is left without French air support, an offer of which was rejected by Mali.

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