Belgium has for now ruled out deploying a contingent of some 250 troops to Mali, the Belgian defense minister’s office told AFP on Tuesday, as European forces withdraw from the region.
Defense Minister Ludivine Dedonder told a committee in the Belgian Parliament that security conditions do not permit the deployment “because of the current stance of the (Malian) junta.” Her office confirmed her words.
The Belgian soldiers had been meant this year to join Task Force Takuba, a French-led military operation numbering nearly 900 men.
The change of plan comes as French President Emmanuel Macron is said by multiple sources to be set to announce that French troops will be withdrawn from Mali and redeployed elsewhere in the Sahel following a breakdown in ties with the country’s military regime.
Security sources told AFP that Macron’s announcement to end the nine-year French mission in Mali will coincide with a European Union-African Union summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.
After two coups in Mali since 2020, France and other Western nations complain that the junta has missed deadlines to restore civilian rule and become increasingly hostile to the presence of French and European soldiers on its soil.
Fellow EU nations had joined France in the Sahel, sharing the military and financial burden and — Paris hoped — limiting long-standing allegations of French interference in its former African colonies.
But Denmark announced it was withdrawing its contingent of elite soldiers in late January and Norway has abandoned a planned deployment.