Swedish to withdraw troops from Sahel mission this year

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Swedish to withdraw troops from Sahel mission this year

BREST, France, Jan 14, Reuters - Sweden has decided to withdraw troops from a European special forces mission to the Sahel region this year and review its U.N. contribution after the arrival of private Russian military contractors in Mali, its foreign minister said.

Ann Linde told reporters on Friday that we have already decided that this year we will withdraw from the force of Takuba.

She said that the question is what do we do with Minusma, referring to the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali.

In 2020, the Swedish Parliament approved the deployment of up to 150 soldiers to Takuba and it has some 250 military personnel as part of Minusma.

Takuba was created as a partial successor to Barkhane, France's counter-terrorism operation in the West African Sahel region, which French President Emmanuel Macron has started to reduce from its initial 5,000-strong force.

It comprises 14 European countries that provide special forces, logistical and tactical support, along with regional forces for targeted operations against Islamist militants.

French officials have said it will discuss how to respond operationally with its partners, but they have acknowledged that some countries in the mission are particularly uneasy after the arrival of private military contractors from the Russian Wagner Group, whose members are mostly ex-service personnel.

The majority of Takuba's operations are in the West African country.

Mali's military-led interim government wants to extend its mandate for five years, accusing Paris of abandoning it and contracting Wagner, a move France and its allies have said is incompatible with their military presence.

Linde said that the junta's efforts to stay in power and the confirmed arrival of the Wagner group were unacceptable.

She said that the Swedish parliament would debate Mali next week if they have a stronger impact and that it will not be possible to continue with those large numbers of troops from us.

It will have consequences. A French military source said Sweden had always planned to withdraw troops after two years and that its mandate ended in March. The European Union will impose sanctions on Mali in line with measures taken by the ECOWAS grouping of West African states over the junta's delay in holding elections after a 2020 coup, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Thursday.