Germany’s Defence Minister said on Thursday she was sceptical about whether a European Union training mission in Mali could continue and that a UN peacekeeping mission would have to be reviewed after France said it would begin a military exit.
“I have to say that I am very sceptical about whether the EUTM mandate will be extended,” Christine Lambrecht told reporters on arrival for a meeting of NATO alliance defence ministers in Brussels.
“When we see that the transition process, that is, the process of living democratic values, has been significantly postponed … then that is not our understanding of this transition process,” she added, pointing to postponed elections.
Earlier on Thursday, France and its allies fighting militants in Mali said they would begin their military withdrawal from the country.
Relations between Paris and Bamako have deteriorated since the ruling military junta went back on an agreement to organise an election in February and proposed holding power until 2025.
The exit by France and its allies raised questions about the futures of the 14 000-strong UN peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA) and the European Union’s EUTM and EUCAP missions.
Their fates are in doubt given French forces provide medical, aerial and emergency reinforcement support, such as a military hospital and combat helicopters.
Lambrecht said Germany could compensate for the military hospital “relatively easily and without complications.”
But the deployment of combat helicopters to protect troops would mean a completely changed mandate, which would have to be approved by Germany’s Bundestag lower house of parliament.
Germany’s Bundeswehr military has some 1 000 soldiers stationed in Mali as part of the MINUSMA peacekeeping operation. Another roughly 300 are involved in the EUTM training mission.