France says it is pulling out of Mali after almost a decade—not because the threat from Islamic extremists in the West African country has receded, but because it can no longer work with the country's ruling military junta. "Victory against terror is not possible if it’s not supported by the state itself," President Emanuel Macron said Thursday. He said France and its allies "cannot remain militarily engaged alongside de facto authorities whose strategy and hidden aims we do not share," per the BBC. France sent troops to its former colony in 2013 to fight extremists who had taken control of the northern part of the country.
In a joint statement, France, other European countries, Canada, and some of Mali's neighbors said that after "multiple obstructions," the "political, operational and legal conditions are no longer met to effectively continue" operations in Mali, the Washington Post reports. France, which has around 4,000 soldiers in the region, says its bases in Mali will close within six months but troops will remain in neighboring countries. The alliance known as the Barkhane force also operates in Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania, the AP reports.
Macron said the "heart of the operation" against extremist groups will now be in Niger. The Malian military seized power in a 2020 coup and recently reneged on promises to hold elections this month. Macron said Thursday that the junta has neglected the fight against extremists and has brought in Russian mercenaries who have "come to Mali to act in a very predatory manner." The mercenaries have a history of human rights abuses in the region. Earlier this month, Gen. Stephen Townsend, head of US Africa Command, said the mercenaries were motivated by access to the nation's gold reserves and "they never leave the situation better than they found it," per the Post. (Read more Mali stories.)