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Berlin sceptical about troops staying in Mali until 2024

#Berlin #sceptical #troops #staying #Mali

Germany’s new defence minister Boris Pistorius confirmed on Monday that Berlin could pull its troops out of Mali before a tentative May 2024 withdrawal date.

The minister, who took office earlier this month, told the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung that the actions of Mali’s junta could lead to an earlier exit.

“Staying until 2024 does not make sense under the current conditions,” he said, adding that a decision would be made this May. 

Berlin had said late last year that German forces would only stay in Mali until 2024 if the junta allows them to operate freely — including carrying out drone missions — and elections are held.

Pistorius noted in the interview that the last drone operation had been “before Christmas”.

“If our soldiers can’t leave the encampment or can only move in a small radius beyond it because they can’t fly drones then we are not fulfilling our mission,” he said.

Pistorius said the deployment would then become “a waste of money and time, above all for the soldiers separated from their families and risking their lives”.

He announced a trip to Mali before the decision on the mandate this May “to see everything for myself”.

Pistorius’s predecessor Christine Lambrecht said in December that Bamako must respect its commitment to hold elections in February 2024 to make way for civilian rule as well as allowing the Germans to perform their reconnaissance mission.

Around 1,100 German troops are deployed as part of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA), whose future is in doubt as violence rages in the centre, north and east of Mali.

Germany’s troops have faced increasing difficulties in recent months, repeatedly having to suspend reconnaissance patrols after the junta denied over-flight rights. 

Mali underwent a military coup in August 2020, followed by a second takeover in May 2021.

The country has been grappling with a jihadist insurgency since 2012 in which thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.

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