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France, 14 other countries urge Mali to let Danish forces stay

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Malian soldiers on patrol with soldiers from the Takuba Task Force in Dansongo Circle, Mali, on August 23, 2021 (photo by Reuters)

France and 14 other countries have called on Mali to allow Danish special forces to remain in the African country, whose transitional government insists that they have entered Mali without formal invitation and must immediately withdraw.

In a statement late on Wednesday, the member states of the Takuba Task Force (TTF) said that they deeply regretted the Mali government’s statement that the presence of the Danish contingent in the European task force lacked a proper legal basis.

“They act in full accordance with international and national laws in their support to the Malian armed forces and in their long-standing fight against armed terrorist groups,” the 15 nations said.

The TTF was established in March of 2020 to help Mali and its West African Sahel neighbors, namely Burkina Faso and Niger, combat militants linked to the two Takfiri terrorist groups of Daesh and al-Qaeda, which have occupied swathes of territory in the area where their borders meet.

On Monday, Mali’s government asked Denmark to immediately withdraw its 100 troops, claiming that the Danish contingent in Takuba lacked a proper legal basis and that their arrival had “taken place without its consent.”

On Tuesday, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said in response that the troops were there on a “clear invitation.”

“The Danish contribution has been accepted both by the previous Malian government and, on several occasions, by the current transitional government,” he added.

However, the Malian government responded that it was surprised since a decision on a request by Copenhagen in June to deploy soldiers was still pending.

“No accord authorizes the deployment of Danish special forces to the Takuba Task Force,” the Malian government said in a statement, adding that Norway, Portugal, and Hungary were still waiting for approval and had not yet deployed their troops.

Mali has become increasingly engulfed in violence since a Tuareg uprising in 2012 was hijacked by extremist militants, who perpetrated ethnic killings and attacks on government forces and civilians.

In 2013, France intervened in Mali to purportedly curb militants who had captured the desert north, before deploying troops across the Sahel. While it has sent more troops and the UN has also its own peacekeeper troops in the African country, violence has continued to intensify and spread in the region.

The TTF was set up as a partial successor to the French forces in the West African Sahel region after French President Emmanuel Macron started to scale the operation back. It had had over 5,000 troops.

The task force is supposed to provide special forces, logistical and tactical support, and work alongside regional troops against Takfiri terrorists.

Nearly 7,000 people died due to the fighting in Mali in 2020, according to the Armed Conflict and Location Event Data Project, while the UN declared late last year that more than two million people had been forced to flee their homes because of the conflict, a number that has quadrupled since 2019.

More than 14 million people in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

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