KIGALI, Rwanda (AA) – Niger on Friday confirmed that it has agreed to allow French and European special forces withdrawing from Mali to be deployed on its territory.
The announcement came from President Mohamed Bazoum a day after European leaders said forces stationed in Mali for counterterrorism missions will be pulled out due to “multiple obstructions by the Malian transitional authorities.”
About 2,400 French troops were part of the forces deployed in Mali, along with roughly 900 special forces in the French-led Takuba task force that was helping Mali and neighbors Burkina Faso and Niger tackle an insurgency linked to the al-Qaeda and ISIS.
At a news conference in Paris on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron had announced that the “heart of this military operation will no longer be in Mali but in Niger.”
The withdrawal from Mali would take four to six months, during which there would be fewer operations against insurgents in the Sahel region, he added.
Bazoum said the redeployed forces would be able to respond to threats posed by terror groups in the western border area with Mali and Burkina Faso.
“The discussion we had on Wednesday evening led unanimously to the need for a reorganization of the system that was in place in Mali. This will lead in particular to a form of presence of these forces in Niger and on the territory of other African countries, a little further south, who would request it,” Bazoum said on Twitter.
“Our goal is for our border with Mali to be secure,” he added.
Bazoum said Niger will welcome the special forces because they have capability to respond to the threat posed by terror groups.
“We expect that after the departure of Barkhane and Takuba, this area will be even more infested and the terrorist groups will strengthen,” he said.
Thursday’s joint statement by 14 European nations said they had agreed to continue collaborative anti-terror operations in the Sahel region, including in Niger and the Gulf of Guinea.