France has announced it will resume joint military operations in Mali after suspending them early last month following the West African country’s second coup in less than a year.
Following consultations with the Malian transitional authorities and the countries of the region, France “decided to resume joint military operations as well as national advisory missions, which had been suspended since June 3”, the armed forces minister said in a statement on Friday.
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The decision to suspend the joint operations came after Mali’s military strongman Assimi Goita, who led last year’s coup, overthrew the country’s civilian transitional president and prime minister.
That move sparked diplomatic uproar, prompting the United States to suspend security assistance for Malian security forces and for the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to suspend Mali.
Mali and France play key roles in the fight against a bloody insurgency plaguing the Sahel region.
France has about 5,100 troops in the Sahel under its Barkhane operation across five countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
On June 10, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a major drawdown of France’s military presence in the Sahel where forces have been battling rebel groups for nearly a decade.
Macron said the existing Barkhane operation would end, with France’s presence becoming part of the so-called Takuba international task force in which “hundreds” of French soldiers would form the backbone.
That Takuba force currently numbers about 600 troops, half of whom are French.