The Danish foreign minister said Thursday that Denmark will start pulling its troops out of Mali after the West African country’s transitional government demanded an immediate withdrawal.
Jeppe Kofod’s announcement came days after tension escalated regarding the presence of Denmark’s troops in Mali.
Mali demanded Monday the withdrawal of Denmark’s troops, claiming it had not been consulted about its military presence and the deployment failed to follow protocol.
Denmark initially responded that just like the other parties in the counter-terrorism mission in Mali, “Denmark is present in Mali on the basis of a clear invitation and a clear basis.”
But Kofod told a news conference Thursday in Copenhagen that Denmark decided not to press on.
“We can see that the Malian transitional government, or the coup generals, last night sent out a public statement where they again reiterated that Denmark is not welcome in Mali,” said Kofod. “We of course will not put up with that, therefore we have decided to withdraw our soldiers home.”
The Danish defense ministry said about 90 personnel, including surgeons and army special forces, were deployed in Mali as part of the Takuba Task Force, a European military task force.
But the junta insisted its presence was not welcome.
Fifteen European countries led by France also asked Mali on Wednesday to allow Danish special forces to remain in the country.
Reports that the transitional junta government deployed private military contractors from the Russia-backed Wagner Group to Mali have escalated tensions with some EU countries contending that it was incompatible with their mission.
There has also been simmering tension between Mali and international partners, including regional blocs, regarding the failure of the transitional government to organize elections in February following two military coups.
EU countries’ foreign ministers agreed Monday to apply sanctions if the military government sticks to its stance not to organize elections.
The Takuba force from 14 European countries is tasked with providing special forces as well as logistical and tactical support working alongside regional troops for targeted operations against insurgency.
Soldiers are expected to help Mali and West Africa Sahel neighbors Burkina Faso and Niger tackle an insurgency linked to the al-Qaeda and Daesh/ISIS terror groups who have created havoc in the tri-border area.
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