Sweden is withdrawing from the French-led special forces mission Takuba in Mali

4

Sweden has decided to withdraw its troops this year from a European special forces mission to the Sahel region and will review its UN contribution after the arrival of private Russian military contractors in Mali, said the country’s foreign minister.

“We have already decided that this year we will withdraw (from) Takuba’s strength,” Ann Linde told reporters on Friday alongside an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in western France.

“The question is what we do with Minusma,” she said, referring to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.

The Swedish parliament approved the deployment of up to 150 soldiers to Takuba 2020 and it has about 250 soldiers as part of Minusma.

Takuba was established as a partial successor to Barkhane, France’s counter-terrorism operation in the West African Sahel region, which French President Emmanuel Macron has begun to reduce from its original 5,000-strong force.

It includes some 14 European countries that provide special forces, logistical and tactical support to work with regional forces for targeted operations against Islamist militants.

French officials have said they will discuss with their partners how to react operationally, but have acknowledged that some countries in the mission are particularly worried after the arrival in Mali of private military contractors from the Russian Wagner group, whose members are mostly former staff. .

Most of Takuba’s operations are located in the West African country.

Mali’s military-led interim government, which wants to extend its term by five years, has accused Paris of abandoning it and contracted Wagner, a move which France and its allies have said was incompatible with their military presence.

Linde said the confirmed arrival of the Wagner group and the junta’s efforts to stay in power were unacceptable.

“We now know (there is) the Wagner group … and if they have a stronger impact, it will not be possible to continue with the large numbers of troops from us,” she said, adding that the Swedish parliament would debate Mali next. week.

“Of course it has consequences.”

A French military source said that Sweden had always planned to withdraw troops after two years and that its mandate ended in March. The source said that Swedish officers will remain part of the assignment.

The European Union will impose sanctions on Mali in line with measures already taken by the ECOWAS group of West African states due to the junta’s delay in holding elections after a coup in 2020, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Thursday.

(REUTERS)