European nations pushed back Wednesday against the Malian military government’s demands that newly arrived Danish special forces fighting jihadists immediately withdraw from the Sahel state.
Task Force Takuba brings together special forces from European countries to advise Malian troops and assist them in combat, with roughly 90 Danes joining earlier this month.
The junta on Monday asked Denmark to “immediately” withdraw its contingent, alleging the troops had been deployed without their consent, a position rejected by the Danish government a day later.
A statement from nations involved in the French-led Task Force Takuba on Wednesday defended the deployment, saying the partners were acting “within a robust legal framework agreed upon by Mali’s sovereign government, including a formal invitation from the Malian authorities to international partners.”
The European countries called on Mali to “quickly remedy this situation at a critical time for Mali, when solidarity is required more than ever.”
Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod on Tuesday had said his nation’s forces were in Mali “on a clear basis” and his government was seeking to clarify the issue.
“There is currently a difficult diplomatic discussion with the transitional government,” he added.
Mali’s junta, which came to power in a 2020 coup, responded late Wednesday it had read Kofod’s “inappropriate” comments with “surprise and consternation.”
Task Force Takuba is the fruit of lengthy French efforts to coax European allies into shouldering some of the burden of fighting jihadists in Mali, the nexus of a nearly decade-old insurgency in the Sahel.
Paris has engaged in “in-depth consultations” with its European partners participating in the special forces group, French Defense Minister Florence Parly said Tuesday, stressing that “the junta is multiplying its provocations.”
This diplomatic spat is the latest obstacle to French and European military action in Mali.
Monday’s coup in Burkina Faso also complicates the equation for Paris.
Of the four Sahel countries where the anti-jihadist Barkhane force is deployed, three — Chad, Mali, Burkina — are now ruled by military juntas.