In light of the unprecedented escalation between the two countries, experts answer about the future of the French military presence in Mali

After 9 years of the French presence in Mali and in the Sahel region, and after the loss of 53 soldiers, 48 ​​of them in Mali, the scenario of the French withdrawal – under great pressure from the ruling military council in Mali – would constitute a strong blow and a scenario similar to the “humiliating” US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Paris- After the major media and political controversy caused by the incident of expelling the French ambassador from Mali earlier this week against the background of statements made by French officials deemed offensive by the Malian authorities, it seems that the crisis between Bamako and Paris is likely to develop and complicate more, according to observers.

This comes especially after French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian clinged to his previous statements, describing the military council as “illegal and irresponsible”, with the addition of new statements last Tuesday before the French National Assembly, in which he confirmed that France is continuing its war against terrorism in the Sahel region until After the incident of expulsion of the ambassador, at a time when the Military Council of Mali renewed its demand for the French authorities to review the military agreements signed earlier with Bamako.

Mali’s isolation

In response to the questions of deputies in the National Assembly about the prospects of the withdrawal of French forces from Mali, Le Drian – who had overseen the military intervention in Mali in 2013 when he was Minister of Defense – said that “Mali’s isolation today has made Wagner mercenaries its only partners,” stressing that the fight against The jihadists will persist in the Sahel with “other countries in the region”.

In the same accountability session in Parliament, and in the same context, French Prime Minister Jean Castix said that the Bamako regime “carries the seeds of the loss of Mali’s sovereignty,” criticizing the military council, which he described as “continuing to multiply provocations and isolate the country.”

For his part, human rights activist and political analyst Bakar Azzouz explained that the expulsion of the French ambassador from Bamako is a surprise, despite the verbal escalation that preceded it, as Paris’ European partners consider this incident unjustified and that it is a free escalation that will have bad consequences on relations with this country.

He added – to Al Jazeera Net – “There is a vigorous effort behind the scenes from France to contain this crisis, for fear of the growing rejection of the French presence in the region, and thus limit Paris’ influence in Africa for the benefit of the global powers that are struggling to expand their presence and influence in the brown continent, and this will not be It is only possible at the expense of Paris.

The incident of expulsion of the French ambassador from Mali set a first and rare precedent between a francophone state and France, especially with the depth of historical relations, and caused “strong” internal reactions to condemn the political class and the French opposition of all kinds, starting with the leader of the far-right Marine Le Pen, who described the incident as the greatest “insult”. And the leftist opposition, Jean-Luc Melenchon, who said that “the time has come to return to reality and empty the dimples with the current ruling authority in Mali, before our sacrifices and our deaths of soldiers there are in vain.”

At the European level, the incident of the expulsion of the French ambassador constituted a “double concern” and an “embarrassing situation” for Paris – according to most observers – as it barely took over the rotating presidency of the European Union last January, in addition to that this tension came a few days after the expulsion incident. The Danish Legion participating in the military operations from the Malian lands, and the deep blow it dealt to “Operation Barkhane” and the “Takuba” force, which is Europe’s defensive symbol, which President Macron has long called for.

Afghanistan scenario

Observers believe that after 9 years of the French presence in Mali and in the Sahel region, and after the loss of 53 soldiers, 48 ​​of them in Mali, the scenario of the French withdrawal – under great pressure from the ruling military council in Mali – would constitute a strong blow and a scenario similar to the “humiliating” American withdrawal from Afghanistan. .

All scenarios remain open regarding the withdrawal of European and French forces from Mali and the Sahel, which the French government spokesman did not deny in the context of his previous statements. to do that”.

While Azzouz explains and analyzes the background of these statements, stressing that the French present their withdrawal from Mali as a re-positioning and spread in a different way, so as not to be understood as another defeat for Paris as a result of its policies that did not develop and which end in “we or no one”.

With regard to the arrival of French financial relations to the point of no return, and the extent to which France can abandon its presence in one of its most important historical strongholds on the African continent, Dr. Jamal Ben Creed – a researcher in humanities and social sciences at Descartes University 5 Paris from the Sorbonne campus – believes that France is impossible to abandon its interests However, he expressed his belief that there are confusion, mistakes and ideological diplomatic bankruptcy in French policy in Africa.

As most observers see that the expansion of cooperation between Mali and Russia is the straw that broke the back of the deep historical relations between Mali and France, Ben Creed emphasized that Russia succeeded to a large extent in neutralizing the French role in Mali, because Wagner’s forces had gained strength and depth in Africa, where these forces play Troops have a pivotal role in Niger, Burkina Faso, Libya and Mali, while France is experiencing diplomatic, political and military turmoil as well.

A helicopter flies over French military vehicles during a military intervention against French militants in Mali (French)

On the nature of the military agreements that Bamako demanded to review, and their role in deepening the dispute between Paris and Bamako, political analyst Bakar Azzouz stressed that these agreements represent the most important element of the tense relationship between the two countries and the military council, and the Malian Prime Minister described them as “unbalanced agreements that affect the dignity of and the security of the country,” noting that national aviation could not fly over Malian territory without prior French permission, for example, which prompted them to submit an official request to Paris to review these agreements and make them more balanced.

President Macron – whose country took over the presidency of the European Union in early January – is counting on the European-African Summit that will be held on February 17-18, in order to try to restore the trust contract that broke up between Paris and several African countries, the last of which is Mali. that?

The researcher in humanities and social sciences at the University of Descartes 5 Paris answers this question by saying, “There are two dimensions to the issue: one is strategic and the other is political. As for the political dimension, it is represented in the fact that most African countries consider that France has no credibility and no longer has a place in Africa. As for the strategic dimension, it is represented in The region is experiencing a historical turning point with the bankruptcy of French diplomacy in its historical stronghold.

Finally, he stresses that this summit will be a formal summit in its content, and will not have real dimensions on the ground. Because Russia, China and even Turkey are the ones who dominate on the ground.

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