Britain ends deployment of 300 troops to UN mission in Mali

Britain ends deployment of 300 troops to UN mission in Mali


Britain announced on Monday that it was halting its deployment of troops to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali after deteriorating relations with the country’s Russian-backed junta.

“I can announce that the British contingent … will now leave the MINUSMA mission ahead of schedule,” Defense Secretary James Heappey told Parliament, referring to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali.

“Two coups in three years have undermined international efforts to promote peace,” he said.

“This government cannot deploy our country’s military to provide security unless the host government is willing to work with us to ensure lasting stability and security.”

Heappey accused Mali of collaborating with the Russian mercenary group Wagner and actively trying to interfere in the UN mission and French-led operations there.

“The Malian government’s partnership with the Wagner Group is counterproductive to lasting stability and security in their region,” he said.

Bamako has previously denied turning to Wagner’s paramilitaries, only acknowledging support from Russian military “trainers”.

Britain deployed 300 troops to Mali in December 2020 to join MINUSMA, a force drawn from dozens of countries aiming to bolster the troubled Sahel nation.

They were originally planned to stay there for three years, but they will now leave within the next six months, according to the ministry’s plans.

In addition to faltering relations with Mali’s military leaders, an Islamist insurgency that first broke out in the north of the country in 2012 has now spread to neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso.

The epicenter of the conflict – which has killed thousands and displaced millions – now appears to be in Burkina Faso, according to the UK MoD.

France withdrew its troops from Mali earlier this year amid rising tensions with the junta in Bamako, while Sweden announced in March that it was leaving the MINUSMA mission.

Heappey insisted that the withdrawal of British troops did not mean that Britain would relinquish its security obligations to the region.

“We have been working closely with our allies to explore options for realigning our deployment alongside France, the EU and other like-minded allies,” he told MEPs.

Interested parties will meet in Ghana next week for the first major gathering in support of the so-called Accra Initiative, he noted.

West Africa-led plans aim to prevent further contagion of the insurgency to Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Niger and to combat growing violence in Burkina Faso.

“The UK will continue its engagement with Mali and the Sahel through our humanitarian, stabilization and development assistance and work in close coordination with partners,” added Heappey.

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