Sweden withdraws from French special forces Takuba mission in Mali

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Sweden has decided to withdraw its troops this year from a European special forces mission in the Sahel region, and will review its UN contribution after the arrival of private Russian military contractors in Mali, its foreign minister has said. .

“We have already decided that this year we will withdraw (from) the Takuba force,” Ann Linde told reporters Friday on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in western France.

“The question is what do we do with Minusma,” she said, referring to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.

The Swedish parliament has approved the deployment of up to 150 soldiers in Takuba in 2020 and it has some 250 soldiers as part of Minusma.

Takuba was created as a partial successor to Barkhane, the French counterterrorism operation in the West African Sahel region that French President Emmanuel Macron has begun to cut from its initial 5,000-strong force.

It includes some 14 European countries, which provide special forces, logistical and tactical support to work alongside regional forces for targeted operations against Islamist militants.

French officials said they would discuss with partners how to respond operationally, but acknowledged that some mission countries were particularly concerned after the arrival in Mali of private military contractors from the Russian Wagner Group, whose members are mostly former soldiers. .

Most of Takuba’s operations are in the West African country.

Mali’s military-led interim government, which wants to extend its mandate by five years, has accused Paris of abandoning it and hiring Wagner, a move France and its allies have said is incompatible with their military presence.

Linde said the confirmed arrival of the Wagner group and the junta’s efforts to stay in power were unacceptable.

“We now know (there is) the Wagner group … and if they have a stronger impact, it will not be possible to continue with these large numbers of soldiers from us,” she said, adding that the Swedish parliament would debate Mali. next week.

“Of course, there will be consequences.”

A French military source said Sweden had always planned to withdraw its troops after two years and its term ended in March. The source said Swedish officers would continue to be part of the mission.

The European Union will impose sanctions on Mali in line with measures already taken by the ECOWAS West African group of states following the junta’s delay in holding elections following a coup. State of 2020, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Thursday.

(Reuters)

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