German military resumes reconnaissance mission in Mali

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The German military resumed its reconnaissance mission in Mali on Tuesday after a suspension of more than three weeks following a spat with Mali’s government over flight clearances.

Berlin has deployed some 1 000 troops to Mali, most of them near the northern town of Gao where their main task is to gather reconnaissance for the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA.

“The troops can resume their patrols beyond Gao,” the German military said on Twitter, lifting the suspension announced in mid-August.

MINUSMA was established in 2013 to support foreign and local troops battling militants, but in recent months there have been repeated instances of tensions between the Malian authorities and the mission.

The longer-term future of German participation is in doubt after the latest dispute with the ruling junta in Bamako and reports of Russian forces arriving in Gao, adding to Berlin’s unease over the increasing Russian military presence in Mali.

Europe’s relations with Mali have deteriorated since a military coup in 2020 and since the government invited fighters from the Wagner Group, a Kremlin-linked private military company, to support its fight against insurgents.

That prompted France to withdraw its troops earlier this year after almost a decade in the country.

On Monday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock warned Berlin may have to withdraw its troops if authorities in the West African country do not provide for the troops’ security needs.

In a recent Reuters interview, Germany’s Chief of Defence Eberhard Zorn said the presence of Russian forces must not hinder UN peacekeepers nor provide cover for human rights breaches, also warning that any such developments could lead to an end of Berlin’s engagement there.