Germany would not rule out transferring its military mission in Mali to another country if the danger is too great, Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said Sunday (19 December).
“The safety of our soldiers is my first priority,” Lambrecht told German weekly Bild am Sonntag, referring to the Bundeswehr’s mission to train Malian forces.
“We now have to check whether it is possible to train Malian soldiers just as well, or even better, in another location that is safer for our soldiers,” said the Social Democrat minister, who took office earlier this month as part of Olaf Scholz’s new government.
Germany has around 1,500 soldiers in Mali as part of the United Nations’ Minusma peacekeeping mission and the EU’s mission to train Malian soldiers.
The Minusma website has reported of series of deaths of peacekeepers following attacks.
Lambrecht had already stated her intention to review all foreign missions being undertaken by the Germany army.
The minister said she wanted to see parliamentary mandates for military missions “debated more in parliament and the objective of missions constantly re-examined”.
Members of the Bundestag (lower house) “send soldiers on the mission and therefore carry responsibility for them,” she said.
France has begun to withdraw troops from its northernmost Malian bases, part of plans to reorganise its forces deployed in the restive Sahel region under “Operation Barkhane”.
French army bases in Kidal, Tessalit and Timbuktu, in the north of the country, will be closed by the end of the year and handed over to the Malian army.
The decision came amid mounting political instability in Mali, where Colonel Assimi Goita carried out two coups in less than a year before being sworn in as the country’s interim president.
EU freezes Mali training missions after military coup, denies responsibility
The EU has suspended training in Mali after the military coup this month that removed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita from power, officials said on Wednesday (26 August), while Germany acknowledged that some perpetrators had been trained in Europe.
In recent months, the reports of a possible deployment of mercenaries hired by the Russian mercenary Wagner Group in Mali further strained already tense ties between the French government and the coup makers. The rising tensions have also come at a time when anti-French sentiment has become widely popular among Malians who accuse Paris of failing to contain the escalating violence and pursuing a hidden agenda.
The EU will conduct Strategic Reviews in early 2022 into its military and defence cooperation missions in Africa, following reports that EU officials were providing training to local forces in the Central African Republic alongside the Russian mercenary group, Wagner