Paris, allies look into withdrawal from Mali
Amid reports that France is going back on its soldiers in Mali, Belgium cancels its plan on sending a contingent to the African nation.
Belgium has ruled out deploying some 250 troops to Mali after it was reported that French President Emmanuel Macron would announce that Paris would withdraw its troops from there and redeploy them in another nation in the Sahel region.
Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder told a committee in the Belgian Parliament that security conditions would not permit the deployment "because of the current stance of the (Malian) junta", and her office confirmed her words.
Belgium was supposed to join Task Force Takuba, a military operation led by France that has some 900 soldiers, despite the Malian public opinion opposing such operations be carried out on their soil.
Security sources reported that Macron's announcement to end the nine-year French mission in Mali would coincide with a bilateral summit between the European Union and the African Union on Thursday and Friday.
France and other Western nations who had soldiers in Mali are strongly opposed by the military leadership in the country that took over following a May 2021 coup, which was Bamako's second since 2020.
France and other Western nations are complaining about the opposition of foreign troops being in Mali, arguing that the leadership in Bamako has missed deadlines to restore civilian rule and become increasingly hostile to the presence of French and European soldiers on its soil.
Several EU member states had joined France in the Sahel, with Parisian aspirations that this would curb international criticism of France over interfering in its former African colonies.
Denmark announced it was withdrawing its contingent of elite soldiers in late January, and Norway has abandoned a planned deployment, leaving France nearly alone in its former colonies in which it is interfering.
West African leaders decided to impose new tough sanctions on Mali, including border closures and a trade embargo after its military rulers delayed a return to civilian rule.
The leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also agreed to cut financial aid and freeze Mali's assets at the Central Bank of West African States, according to a final declaration.
Mali's junta said it "strongly" condemned 'illegal sanctions' imposed by the Economic Community of West African States on the country ECOWAS.
Mali had also decided to expel the French ambassador due to Le Drian's "hostile statements" towards Mali.
And despite France continuing to bolster its presence in the African nation, French Defense Minister Florence Parly said that France cannot stay in Mali "whatever the price."