Mali’s foreign affairs ministry has said that Chad planned to deploy 1,000 additional UN peacekeepers to Mali to reinforce its troops battling armed groups in the former French colony.
“The deployment is part of a bilateral framework at the request of the Government of Chad for reinforcing its contingent in Northern Mali following the reconfiguration of the Barkhane force,” the ministry said in a statement on Saturday.
Chadian soldiers make up nearly 1,400 of the UN’s 13,000-troop peacekeeping force in north and central Mali, where an armed rebellion has escalated despite a nine-year effort by an international coalition to subdue it.
The upcoming deployment will reinforce those and other Chadian troops as France scales back its 5,000-strong regional counterterrorism mission known as Barkhane.
Earlier this week, French troops left the city of Timbuktu where, in 2013, former French President Francois Hollande declared the start of France’s military offensive in Mali.
In June this year, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a major troop drawdown after a military takeover in Mali in August 2020 that overthrew the elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
France has already closed three bases in northern Mali this year. By next year, it is set to have about 3,000 soldiers in the Sahel, down from 5,100 at the height of its deployment.
Chad government spokesperson Azem Bermendoa told the Reuters news agency on Saturday that additional troops would soon be sent to Mali, but he declined to specify the size of the contingent or a deployment timeline.
“After the withdrawal of French troops, we found it urgent to strengthen the operational and tactical capacity of our contingent while waiting for the Malian army and the (UN) Blue Helmets to reorganise their deployments,” Bermendoa said.
Chad deployed some 1,000 soldiers to the tri-border region of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali in February to reinforce national armies after France first publicly mulled reducing its regional presence.
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali, or known simply as MINUSMA, began its deployment to the troubled Sahel state in 2013.
It has 16,500 personnel, including 10,700 troops, according to its website.