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US Watchful of UN Mali Pullout

FILE: UN peacekeepers patrol in Kidal, Mali, July 23, 2015. Mali has told the UN force to leave, as the West African nation turns to mercenary Wagner Group fighters and others for its security.

PARIS — The United States regrets a decision by Mali's interim military authorities to ask a United Nations peacekeeping force, MINUSMA, to leave the country, the State Department said on Monday, calling for an "orderly and responsible" drawdown of the mission.

"The United States regrets the transition government of Mali’s decision to revoke its consent for MINUSMA," State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said. "MINUSMA's drawdown must be orderly and responsible, prioritizing the safety and security of peacekeepers and Malians."

"We are concerned about the effects this decision will have on the security and humanitarian crises impacting the Malian people," he said in a statement.

The United States "will continue to work with our partners in West Africa to help them tackle the urgent security and governance challenges they face," Miller said. "We welcome further consultations with regional leaders on additional steps to promote stability and prevent conflict."

Mali's Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop made the withdrawal request during a U.N. Security Council meeting on Friday, citing a "crisis of confidence" between Malian authorities and the decade-long U.N. mission known as MINUSMA.

The junta has burned bridges with traditional Western allies and turned to Russia for help boosting its military capabilities Bamako has hired Russian-owned Wagner Group mercenaries to boost its security.

The U.N. special envoy to Mali, El-Ghassim Wane, said on Friday it would be "extremely challenging, if not impossible" to operate in a country without the government authorities' consent.

Mali has struggled to stem an Islamist insurgency that took root following an uprising in 2012. MINUSMA was deployed by the U.N. Security Council in 2013 to support foreign and local efforts to restore stability.