The Barkhane anti-jihadist force began the final phase of the transfer of the Kidal base in northern Mali to the United Nations force (MINUSMA) and the Malian army on Tuesday, the French general staff said.
“The last logistical convoy left for Gao this morning at 5 a.m. A detachment of Barkhane will remain on site for the final administrative and logistical formalities,” said staff spokesman Colonel Pascal Ianni on Tuesday.
Paris began in June to reorganize its military presence in the Sahel, leaving the northernmost bases in Mali (Kidal, Timbuktu and Tessalit) and planning to reduce its troops in the region by 2023 to 2,500-3,000 men, compared to more than 5,000 today.
“The transfer to MINUSMA and the Malian armed forces will be finalized within ten days,” the spokesman added, insisting on “close collaboration with the authorities and the army” of Mali.
Relations between Paris and Bamako soured on September 25, when Mali’s transitional Prime Minister, Choguel Kokalla Maïga, accused France, which has been militarily engaged in Mali since 2013, of “abandoning in mid-air.”
The criticism was supposed to justify the possible use of the Russian private security group Wagner, described as close to President Vladimir Putin, to compensate for the reduction in the size of Barkhane.
The Barkhane detachment that remains in Kidal, whose numbers have not been revealed “for security reasons”, will be called upon to provide “reassurance” to France’s partners, the spokesman said, insisting on a “controlled, mastered, secure” process.