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Mali: EU to reduce security training operations

April 11, 2022

The EU will wind down some operations due to continued cooperation between Russian mercenaries and Mali's junta. But the EU says it remains committed to the region.

Malian soldiers trained by the EUTM mission
Some 300 German soldiers are involved in the EU's security missions in MaliImage: Nicolas Remene/Le Pictorium/MAXPPP/dpa/picture alliance

The EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said on Monday that the bloc will wind down some of its training of Mali's forces, casting further doubt on the future of EU and UN peacekeeping missions in the region.

Borrell grounded the decision in the lack of guarantees from the transitional Malian authorities that Russian Kremlin-linked mercenaries would not interfere with EU operations.

"We have decided to suspend, to stop, certain formations of our training mission in Mali focused on the units of the armed forces of the Malian national guard," Borrell said in response to a question during a press conference.

"There are not enough security guarantees from the Malian authorities over the non-interference of the well-known Wagner Group," he added.

EU training mission in Mali 'will strongly change' – DW's Jack Parrock in Brussels

What is the EU doing in Mali?

The EU is involved in two training missions in Mali — the EUTM and the EUCAP — alongside the UN's own MINUSMA peacekeeping mission.

Borrell said that while some training operations would end, the EU's involvement in the Sahel region would continue, suggesting the involvement of security advisors.

"The Sahel remains a priority. We're not giving up on the Sahel, far from it. We want to commit even more to that region," he said.

The international missions have been supporting local forces in Mali and other countries across the region to tackle widespread Islamist insurgencies.

The political and security instability is considered to be one of the main causes of the military coups in Mali that brought the current military junta into power. Other countries in the region have also undergone coups in recent years.

But the future of international involvement is under threat due to the cooperation of Malian authorities with the Russian mercenary Wagner Group.

Borrell said on Monday that the "notorious Wagner group... is responsible for some very serious events which have led to tens of people being killed in Mali in recent times." 

Germany's involvement in question

The news of the EU's partial withdrawal from Mali comes as German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is set to meet Mali's transitional President Assimi Goita on Tuesday in Bamako.

Some 300 German soldiers are taking part in the EU mission with around another 1,000 deployed with the UN's MINUSMA.

Before heading to Mali, Baerbock cast doubt over Germany's continued presence in Mali, criticizing the deterioration of democratic institutions in the West African country as well as the presence of Russian mercenaries.

Human rights groups recently accused Malian forces and Russian soldiers of massacring hundreds of civilians in the village of Moura.

The question of Germany's continued involvement in Mali follows the decision by France to end its Barkhane counter-terrorism operations in the country. Mali was once a French colony and the announcement was greeted with celebration in some sections of the population.

ab/fb (AFP, AP, Reuters)