France said it intends to withdraw troops from Mali Eight years after France sent troops to Mali to prevent jihadists from overrunning the country.
Five French soldiers have been killed by roadside bombs in Mali over the past 10 days, bringing to 50 the number of troops killed across the Sahel since France launched a campaign to clear northern Mali of jihadists in January 2013.
The latest victims included Sergeant Yvonne Huynh, the first female soldier killed since the French intervention began.
Her death Saturday, claimed by a group linked to al-Qaeda, coincided with a massacre across the border in western Niger, where unidentified gunmen killed around 100 villagers in one of the region’s worst atrocities.
These deaths — and disputed claims Tuesday from villagers in central Mali that up to 20 wedding guests were killed in an air strike — have clouded recent successes chalked up by France’s 5,100-member Barkhane counterterrorism force and its African partners.
In the past year, the French have killed the leader of the notorious al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb group, Abdelmalek Droukdel, as well as one of the military leaders of the al-Qaeda affiliated Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM).
Anxious to avoid becoming mired in a long Afghan-style conflict, Paris is preparing to announce a withdrawal of the 600 additional troops it deployed to the Sahel last year.
But whether the drawdown signals the beginning of the end of France’s Sahel mission is not yet clear.