The Unites Kingdomw will withdraw its troops from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) early, Minister of State for the Armed Forces James Heappey announced on 14 November.
“The army will be issuing orders imminently to reconfigure the next deployment to draw down our presence,” he told parliament.
The British Army deployed a long-range reconnaissance unit consisting of about 300 personnel, which is based around the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Regiment. This will be rotated for the Scots Dragoon Guards later this month, a senior UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.
The 300 strong Light Dragoon task group joined over 14,000 peacekeepers from 56 Nations as part of the UN mission in Mali to help protect the people from violence and support political dialogue.
The British troops provided the UN mission with “a highly specialized reconnaissance capability, conducting patrols to gather intelligence and engage with the local population.
The contingent would withdraw before the previously planned date of December 2023.
Defence Minister James Heappey blamed the political instability in the country, stating that two coups in Mali in three years had “undermined” efforts. He also attacked the current Malian government for working with the Russian mercenary group Wagner.
“The Wagner Group is linked to mass human rights abuses and the Malian government’s partnership with the Wagner Group is counterproductive to lasting stability and security in their region,” he told MPs.
The operation in Mali had been described as “the most dangerous peacekeeping mission in the world” and 288 UN soldiers have lost their lives there since 2013.
While deployed in Mali, British troops carried out long-range reconnaissance patrols against Islamist militant groups in the area such as al-Qaeda and Islamic state.
The UK is the latest country to pull its troops from Mali, with France formally ending its decade-long presence last week.
French troops had been in Mali at the request of the then-government, under Operation Barkhane, however, since seizing power in 2020, Mali’s military rulers have fallen out with France and have instead turned to Russia to help in their fight against Islamist insurgents who are wreaking havoc across much of the country.
Thousands of people have been killed in the past year and many parts of the country are outside the control of Mali’s military junta.