Germany will start to pull out its troops from Mali from the middle of next year after a decade-long mission, with the withdrawal to be completed by May 2024, a government spokesperson said on Tuesday.
Berlin has deployed some 1000 troops to Mali, most near the northern town of Gao where their main task is to gather reconnaissance for the UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA.
The future of the German mission has been in doubt for a while due to recurring disputes with the ruling military junta in Bamako and the arrival of Russian forces in Gao, which added to Berlin’s unease over an increasing Russian military presence in Mali.
The government decided to extend by one year the mandate for the mission in May 2023 for the last time to ensure a structured exit, said government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit.
“In particular, the elections in Mali scheduled for February 2024 will be taken into account,” said Hebestreit.
The decision, reported earlier by Reuters, is subject to approval by the Bundestag lower house of parliament.
The decision followed talks between German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht and Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock who were at odds on the issue.
While the defence ministry had lobbied for a withdrawal, the foreign ministry warned against leaving Mali to an increasing Russian presence and pushed for German troops to stay on.
“It will be a very orderly withdrawal from Mali – without losing sight of the transition process in Mali,” Lambrecht said. “As there are elections scheduled in Feb 2024, we will stay over these elections, but we will start the withdrawal in summer next year.”