Is France ‘training terrorists’ in Mali? The country's prime minister seems to think so

According to the allegations reportedly raised by the Mali prime minister, French troops now control an entire enclave in Kidal, a northern desert town, to the point that Malian authorities have even been ‘banned’ from entering their own territory.
A French soldier stands guards in front of an NH90 Caiman military helicopter during Operation Barkhane in Mali. (File Photo / REUTERS)
A French soldier stands guards in front of an NH90 Caiman military helicopter during Operation Barkhane in Mali. (File Photo / REUTERS)
Published on Oct 09, 2021 01:51 PM IST
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Written by Joydeep Bose | Edited by Meenakshi Ray, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

Mali has accused France of “training terrorists” inside the country, according to a report by Al Jazeera citing the Russian media, even as French president Emmanuel Macron maintains that France has no intention to retain its military presence there for much longer. In an interview with Russian network RIA Novosti, Mali's prime minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga claimed that French officers, feigning to be on counter-terror operations, have instead been training terrorist outfits in northern Mali's Kidal region.

The report published by Russian state-controlled television network RT said that Mali even has evidence that France is training terrorists inside its territory. “They have militant groups there, who have been trained by French officers,” the report quoted Mali president Choguel Kokalla Maiga as saying. “We have evidence of that.”

According to the allegations reportedly raised by the Mali prime minister, French troops now control an entire enclave in Kidal, a northern desert town, to the point that Malian authorities have even been ‘banned’ from entering their own territory. There, the French are allegedly coordinating with an al Qaeda-linked “terrorist group” known as Ansar-al-Din and other outfits which “came from Libya”.

Notably, France intervened in Mali in 2013 after armed rebels took control of the northern region of the West African country a year prior. Since then, Paris has deployed thousands of troops in the semi-Arid Sahel region of Africa with a stated aim to combat the armed uprising. France has been conducting Operation Barkhane against terrorist groups in the Sahel region—Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger—since August 1, 2014.

But Mali's prime minister said that the “terrorists” arriving from Libya are a result of France's 2011 military intervention in the north African nation along with its Nato allies. He claimed that although Mali initially wanted to cooperate with France to combat the terror outfits with “intelligence data and air support”, Paris rapidly increased its military presence in the region, which was uncalled for.

According to Maiga, about two-thirds of Mali is now occupied by terrorists, a significant deterioration in the situation from eight years ago, when militants were only present in pockets.

Meanwhile, French president Emmanuel Macron said, “We have no intention to remain [in Mali], that is why we are closing the bases. Our work in Tessalit or Kidal [northern Mali] is not aimed at retaining bases.” Speaking on the sidelines of the Africa-France summit in Montpellier on late Friday, Macron added that Paris wanted to leave the bases in Mali as soon as possible but that required a strong state in Mali and significant investment projects in this country.

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Friday, October 29, 2021