Germany will end its participation in a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali at the end of next year, a government source told AFP on Wednesday after months of operational problems.
“By the end of 2023 at the latest, German soldiers are to end their involvement in the UN blue helmet mission MINUSMA,” the source said.
Britain and Ivory Coast had already said earlier this week that they would withdraw from the mission.
According to the German source, officials from the Chancellery, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have reached an agreement in principle to withdraw the troops.
A final decision on whether to continue in Mali will be made next Tuesday at a meeting attended by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the source said.
A Foreign Ministry source said talks are still ongoing and a final decision has yet to be taken.
The German military has been in Mali since 2013 with a presence of up to 1,400 troops as part of the MINUSMA mission.
The German troops are partly meant to compensate for the loss of French soldiers, after Paris pulled its forces out of the country earlier this year.
French troops had been in Mali for almost 10 years, helping fight jihadist groups that pose a growing threat in the Sahel.
But they withdrew after a breakdown in relations as the junta turned away from France and towards Russia in its fight against jihadism.
German forces have faced increasing difficulties in recent months and have repeatedly had to call off reconnaissance patrols after being denied overflight rights.Grounded drones
The Ministry of Defense said on Wednesday that Mali has not granted the necessary permits for its surveillance drones since October 11.
“Of course this has an impact on the performance of the mission – it is significantly limited,” a ministry spokesman said.
Mali’s elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, was ousted in August 2020 by officers outraged by the failure to restore a jihadist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes.
The following year, the military forced out an interim civilian government and began forging closer ties with the Kremlin, acquiring Russian fighter jets and helicopters and bringing in personnel described by the West as mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner group.
Relations with France, Mali’s former colonial power and traditional ally, quickly deteriorated.
Ivory Coast said on Tuesday it would withdraw its troops from UN peacekeeping operations by August 2023.
Defense Secretary James Heappey announced Britain’s withdrawal on Monday, saying Mali’s military rulers were “unwilling to work with us to deliver lasting stability and security”.
He added that their “partnership with the Wagner Group is counterproductive to lasting stability and security in their region”.
The UN Security Council renewed its MINUSMA mandate for one year on June 29, although the junta resisted requests to allow free movement of rights investigators with the mission.
MINUSMA is one of the UN’s largest peacekeeping operations, with 17,557 soldiers, police, civilians and volunteers deployed in June, according to the mission’s website.