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The French Army's Decade in Mali

FILE - French Barkhane force soldiers who wrapped up a four-month tour of duty in the Sahel leave their base in Gao, Mali, June 9, 2021

France pulled out of Mali on Monday more than nine years after its troops were welcomed into the West African country to help fight a jihadist-fueled insurgency.

The last French troops left Mali on Monday, the French army said, with hostilities running deep after a falling out with colonels who seized power nearly two years ago.

Here's a look back at what happened:


Tuareg nomads and rebels allied to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) capture the capitals of the three northern regions of Mali — Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu.

The Islamists quickly sideline the Tuareg, carry out amputations and stonings and destroy mausoleums in the fabled desert city of Timbuktu.


In January 2013, Mali appeals to colonial power France as the jihadists head south, threatening the capital Bamako.

Paris sends a 1,700-strong force, Operation Serval, which routs the rebels.

In April 2013, a U.N. force, MINUSMA (the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali), is launched.

It becomes one of the U.N.'s biggest peacekeeping operations, with more than 17,000 troops, police, civilians and volunteers deployed today.


On August 1, France replaces Operation Serval with a wider mission in the Sahel called Operation Barkhane.

Barkhane initially deploys 3,000 troops, rising to 5,100 troops at its peak. The force operates in cooperation with five allied countries — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.


In May and June 2015, the Malian government and former Tuareg rebels sign a peace agreement but implementation lags.

Twenty-five people — including 16 foreigners — are killed in two attacks on a hotel and a restaurant in Bamako in March and November by jihadists from a group led by Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar.

Jihadist attacks also spread to the centre of Mali and reach across the border into Niger and Burkina Faso.


In January 2017, a suicide bombing by the same outfit on a camp in Gao grouping former rebels and pro-government militia leaves 77 dead and 120 injured.

In July, the leaders of five Sahel countries agree to create an anti-terror task force called the G5 Sahel backed by France.


As attacks on the armed forces and civilians in central Mali mount, anger against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita rises, culminating in a military coup August 2020.

The ensuing junta creates an interim government.

But when its civilian leaders remove soldiers from some key posts, strongman Colonel Assimi Goita stages a de-facto second coup in May 2021.

Relations with Paris deteriorate rapidly when Goita's junta refuses to hold promised elections on schedule.

In June 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron announces that Barkhane numbers will be progressively scaled back to between 2,500 and 3,000 troops.


Russian paramilitaries from the controversial Wagner group begin deploying in Mali at the end of 2021 to shore up its military leaders.

On January 9, 2022, the West African bloc Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposes an embargo on Mali over the cancelled elections, demanding a return to civilian rule.

Tensions mount and Mali expels the French ambassador on January 31.

On February 17, France announces its intention to withdraw from Mali, a move that will go in parallel with a smaller French-led European Unions force called Takuba. Macron sets a deadline of four to six months.

The next day Bamako calls on Paris to withdraw its soldiers "without delay," a request rejected by the French leader.

In early May, the junta breaks its defense agreements with Paris and weeks later announces it is leaving the G5 Sahel.

In late June, the U.N. extends MINUSMA's mandate by a year, but without French air support, which is rejected by the junta.

On July 1 Paris announces the end of Takuba, and on Monday Barkhane officially comes to a close.

France has halved its presence in the Sahel, with just 2,500 military now remaining in the region.