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Malians Unsettled By News Of French Army Exit From Sahel

Malians reacted to Thursday’s announcement by President Emmanuel Macron on the future reduction of French military presence fighting Islamic extremism in Africa’s Sahel region.

France’s Operation Barkhane will formally end and will be replaced by another mission focused on fighting Islamic extremists that relies more on regional partners.

“We welcomed the presence of Barkhane alongside the Malians for many years,” said Mamadou Sangare, a cultural producer from Bamako.

“But what is certain is that it is pushing our country once again and states of the sub-region to create practical solutions in order to be able to face this terrorist threat that is invading the whole Sahel,” he added.

French troops have been present in Mali since 2013 when they intervened to force Islamic extremist rebels from power in towns across the country’s north.

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France currently has about 5,100 soldiers deployed across the semi-arid strip on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert as part of its Operation Barkhane, whose headquarters are in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena.

Public opinion in Mali is mostly against the presence of foreign forces, where militant attacks have grown in gravity and frequency over the years.

A French top official said it will take several months to implement the changes.

Several thousand French troops will remain in the region in total, participating in various operations including the new cooperation mission.

“It is not only Mali that is in danger but the whole of Africa. We must be wary and vigilant,” said Chaka Keita, a resident in the capital of the country.

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