Mali’s army-led government on Friday asked France to withdraw its forces from the Sahel state “without delay”, calling into question Paris’ plans to pull out over several months.
A government spokesman added in a statement announced on public television that the results of France’s nine-year military engagement in conflict-torn Mali were “not satisfactory”.
On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that he was withdrawing troops from Mali after a breakdown in relations with the nation’s ruling military junta.
France first intervened in Mali in 2013 to combat a jihadist insurgency that emerged one year prior. It currently has thousands of troops stationed across the Sahel, with the majority in Mali.
However, relations between the two countries deteriorated sharply after Mali’s army seized power in a coup in 2020, and later defied calls to restore civilian rule swiftly.
The French pullout after nearly a decade is also set to see the smaller European Takuba group of special forces, created in 2020, leave Mali.
Macron said the withdrawal would take place over four to six months.
Spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga called the prolonged French withdrawal a “flagrant violation” of accords between the two countries.
“In view of these repeated breaches of defence agreements, the government invites the French authorities to withdraw, without delay,” he said.
Mali has also asked the smaller Takuba force to depart quickly.
Macron responded with a statement saying he would not compromise the safety of French soldiers and the withdrawal will take place take place “in orderly fashion”.
The planned withdrawal of France and its allies has raised questions about the possibility of a security vacuum in impoverished Mali, a vast and ethnically diverse nation of 21 million people.