UNITED STATES NEWS

The UN is undertaking an unprecedented 6-month withdrawal of nearly 13,000 peacekeepers from Mali

Aug 28, 2023, 5:05 PM | Updated: 7:50 pm

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations is in the throes of what Secretary-General António Guterres calls an “unprecedented” six-month exit from Mali on orders of the West African nation’s military junta, which has brought in mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group to help fight an Islamic insurgency.

The U.N. special envoy for Mali, El-Ghassim Wane, laid out the scale of the operation to the U.N. Security Council on Monday: All 12,947 U.N. peacekeepers and police must be sent home, their 12 camps and one temporary base handed over to the government, and 1,786 civilian staff terminated by the Dec. 31 deadline.

Mali’s U.N. Ambassador Issa Konfourou said the government is cooperating with the U.N. peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSMA, but it will not extend the deadline.

The United Nations also needs to move out approximately 5,500 sea containers of equipment and 4,000 vehicles that belong to the U.N. and the countries that contributed personnel to MINUSMA, the fourth largest of the U.N.’s dozen peacekeeping operations, Wane said.

That process has begun but will continue during a “liquidation” period that will begin on Jan. 1, 2024 and last for 18 months, with the U.N. keeping police in the three hubs in the capital, Bamako, Gao and Timbuktu where the equipment is being gathered.

Mali has been in turmoil since a 2012 military coup which was followed by rebels in the north forming an Islamic State two months later.

The extremist rebels were forced from power in the north with the help of a French-led military operation, but they moved from the arid north to more populated central Mali in 2015 and remain active.

In August 2020, Mali’s president was overthrown in a coup that included an army colonel who carried out a second coup and was sworn in as president in June 2021. He developed ties to Russia’s military and the Wagner group whose head, Yevgeny Prigozhin, was reportedly killed in a plane crash on a flight from Moscow last week.

The U.N. deployed peacekeepers in 2013 and MINUSMA has become the most dangerous U.N. mission in the world, with more than 300 personnel killed.

In a 13-page letter to Security Council members circulated Monday, Guterres said “the timeline, scope and complexity of the mission’s withdrawal are unprecedented.”

He said the landlocked country’s “vast terrain, the hostile operating environment in certain regions and its climates render the mission’s withdrawal within a six-month time frame extremely challenging.”

Guterres said the logistics of moving troops and equipment is further constrained by the presence of “terrorist armed groups” and the recent military takeover of Niger, a key transit country.

U.N. experts said in a report last week that Islamic State extremists have almost doubled the territory they control in Mali in less than a year, and that their al-Qaida-linked rivals are also capitalizing on the deadlock and perceived weakness of armed groups that signed a 2015 peace agreement.

U.N. envoy Wane told the Security Council that the first phase of the withdrawal focused on closing the smallest and furthest outposts – Menaka, Ber, Goundam and the temporary base in Ogossagou — which was completed on Aug. 25.

The withdrawal from Ber took place two days early because of clashes at the camp, and U.N. convoys leaving the camp were attacked, with no casualties.

Mali’s Konfourou said “armed terrorist groups took hostile action to prevent the Malian security and armed forces from occupying the camp” at Ber.

France’s deputy U.N. ambassador Nathalie Broadhurst told the council the clashes in Ber occurred “with the participation of Wagner mercenaries” and were a serious violation of a cease-fire and the 2015 peace agreement.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield also expressed alarm at the resumption of hostilities in northern Mali, including at Ber.

“Additionally, MINUSMA’s withdrawal limits the ability of the international community to protect civilians from the predations of Wagner, whose activities contribute to greater insecurity in the country,” she said.

Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky made no mention of Wagner but said, “Russia will continue to provide Mali and other interested African partners with comprehensive assistance on a bilateral, equal and mutually respectful basis.”

U.N. envoy Wane said the second and final phase of the troop withdrawal starting Sept.1 “will be incredibly difficult” because of the long distances that convoys evacuating troops and equipment need to travel, including through hostile areas — 563 kilometers in the case of the Tessalit camp.

Wane stressed that the withdrawal is taking place as the 2015 peace agreement between the government, a pro-government militia and a coalition of groups seeking autonomy in Mali’s north is paralyzed.

“That agreement is the cornerstone of Mali’s long-term stabilization,” he said.

United States News

Associated Press

After rare flash flood emergency, Florida prepares for more heavy rainfall in coming days

A tropical disturbance has brought a rare flash flood emergency to much of southern Florida as residents prepared to weather more heavy rainfall on Thursday and Friday. Wednesday’s downpours and subsequent flooding blocked roads, floated vehicles and delayed the Florida Panthers on their way to Stanley Cup games in Canada against the Edmonton Oilers. The […]

3 hours ago

Forgiving father's killer hard for 3 children of Jordan Rasmussen...

KSL Podcasts/Amy Donaldson

A family decides to forgive a killer, but will the next generation follow?

Michael Moore killed Jordan Rasmussen and Buddy Booth in 1982. Forgiving their father's killer was hard for Rasmussen's three children.

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Neil Goldschmidt, former Oregon governor who confessed to sex with a minor in the 1970s, has died

Neil Goldschmidt, a former Oregon governor whose confession that he had sex with a 14-year-old girl in the 1970s blackened what had been a nearly sterling reputation, has died. He was 83. Goldschmidt died at his Portland home on Wednesday, The Oregonian reported, according to family members. The newspaper said the reported cause was heart […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Man charged with robbing a California bank was released from prison a day earlier, prosecutors say

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — A man charged with taking three people hostage while robbing a Southern California bank last month had been released from prison a day earlier, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. The 53-year-old was indicted on robbery charges after investigators said he claimed to have a gun, jumped over the teller counter and […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Woman with gun taken into custody after standoff at FBI building in Seattle, authorities say

SEATTLE (AP) — A woman armed with a handgun was taken into custody after an hourlong standoff at the FBI building in Seattle on Wednesday, authorities said. The woman walked into a publicly accessible area where people have to wait to be buzzed into the lobby, according to FBI spokesperson Steve Bernd. She pointed the […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

South Carolina man pleads guilty in federal court to fatally shooting Virginia police officer

ABINGDON, Va. (AP) — A South Carolina man pleaded guilty to federal charges Wednesday in the shooting death of a police officer in southwest Virginia in 2021. Michael Donivan White, 36, of Cross, South Carolina, had already pleaded guilty to first-degree murder charges in state court. The federal counts include drug charges and causing the […]

8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

The UN is undertaking an unprecedented 6-month withdrawal of nearly 13,000 peacekeepers from Mali