Germany’s military has suspended all reconnaissance and transport operations in Mali after a planned personnel rotation was blocked by Malian authorities.
The decision was taken after Malian authorities prevented a flight carrying 110 German soldiers deployed with a United Nations peacekeeping mission from leaving the country, a defense ministry spokesman Arne Collatz told reporters Friday. Another 140 personnel, who were supposed to replace French troops that are in the process of withdrawing, couldn’t travel to the West African nation, he said.
“Without a new team of personnel, security on the ground can no longer be guaranteed,” Collatz said.
Mali has long been seen as a linchpin in the fight against Islamist militants in the Sahel region. The nation’s military junta has been on a collision course with its foreign partners since the deployment of what the US estimates to be 1,000 mercenaries by Russia’s Wagner Group last year. Mali’s government has denied the presence of Wagner forces.
France and its European partners withdrew troops, part of a counter-terrorism force, earlier this year. Egypt suspended its participation in the UN mission, known as Minusma, in July. Germany, with 1,100 troops, is the biggest Western contingent in the UN mission. In 2019, Germany donated 29 Casspir armoured personnel carriers and other equipment including 4,100 bullet-resistant vests, 4,300 combat boots and 2,700 ballistic helmets to Mali.
In February, Germany deployed five of its CH-53G Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopters and an additional 120 personnel to Gao, Mali to support the United Nations mission (MINUSMA).
The junta that seized power in Bamako in 2020 also temporarily suspended MINUSMA troop rotations in July, days after the arrest of 49 soldiers from Ivory Coast who authorities said had arrived in the country without permission.
German government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said Berlin was closely coordinating with its international partners and remained prepared to participate in the U.N. peacekeeping mission.
In Mali, tensions with the nearly 12,000-member MINUSMA force have grown over U.N. calls to allow freedom of movement for peacekeepers to investigate human rights abuses, which the government has refused.
France announced in February it was pulling its troops out of Mali after nearly a decade there fighting insurgents. Mali is struggling to stem an Islamist insurgency that took root after a 2012 uprising and has since spread to neighbouring countries, killing thousands and displacing millions across West Africa’s Sahel region.