The head of France’s anti-jihadist mission in the Sahel on Friday said French forces that were being pulled out of Mali after a row with its junta would not redeploy in neighbouring Niger.
General Laurent Michon, who commands the Barkhane force in the troubled Sahel, told journalists there would be “absolutely no redeployment” from Mali to Niger.
“Barkhane’s withdrawal does not entail repositioning to Niger but withdrawing from Mali,” he told a press conference in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.
France currently has 4,600 troops in Barkhane, a mission that was launched in 2014 to shore up fragile allies in the Sahel battling jihadist insurgents.
Thousands of civilians in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso have been killed and more than two million have fled their homes.
Barkhane ran into problems in Mali after elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was toppled in a military coup in August 2020.
On February 17, President Emmanuel Macron announced France would withdraw its forces from the country, an operation that Paris says will take several months.
Around 2,400 of Barkhane’s forces are currently deployed in Mali.
The withdrawal “will be coordinated with Malian military headquarters, the goal being to do it as quickly as possibly but avoiding a security vacuum,” said Michon.