Mali is becoming increasingly significant for Germany and other European allies when it comes to their foreign military deployments. German armed forces have been active in Mali since 2013, with a modest record.
A Dangerous Status Quo for Berlin
The status quo in Mali continues to be dangerous. Germany troops have been stationed in Mali for seven years, as the Sahel zone plays a pivotal role in the entire region’s stability and development.
However, despite its continuous presence, Germany’s future engagement remains a hot topic domestically, particularly as it will now move towards the country’s top agenda as far as missions abroad are concerned.
The Sahel remains a hub for terrorism and a number of large criminal organizations.
The security situation has decreased significantly over the past two years, mainly dictated by Islamist groups who continue to move freely in many parts of the country. Accordingly, the likelihood of an attack remains high. Terrorists are also active along the borders with Burkina Faso and Mauritania, while the border region between Mali and Niger remains one of the most unstable parts of the Sahel zone. Islamic State (ISIS) affiliates are operating here.
Mali’s Downward Slide
Since the mid-2020s, there have been far-reaching political developments in Mali on its downward slide to disorder. In August, the military coup was the climax of a chain of occurrences. In the capital, in particular, the circumstances had already escalated in early summer. The putsch backers then assembled a military council and declared that they did not want martial law but simply a new political start.
The coup was hardly opposed by anyone in the country, but it led to the issue of whether international troops deployed in the country would maintain their presence.
Germany had spoken of an “unconstitutional change of power,” and the Bundeswehr temporarily suspended its operations but resumed it soon after.
In principle, foreign deployments of the Bundeswehr must have a political mandate from the Bundestag.
Germany Commits to Extended Mali Troop Presence
In May, it further approved the armed forces’ engagement in Mali, which are part of two missions: at the European Union for the training of Malian armed forces (EUTM Mali) as well as for a mission of the UN (MINUSMA)
The UN mission serves to implement the peace agreement, protect the civilian population, respect human rights, and directly stabilize the situation.
A total of up to 1,100 German soldiers remains present for the UN. In total, the UN has more than 10,000 servicemen as part of its mission.
Meanwhile, the EU mission aims to created stability by a political process and economic growth, combined with national armed forces that can counter threats independently. Here, Germany has deployed 450 service members, who are training Malian armed forces.
According to an EU decision, the current location will change within the near future: A new training facility under German leadership is currently being set up in Sévaré, in Mali’s unstable center.
This moves is intended to strengthen the presence of state forces in central Mali.
Training Malian Armed Forces
Moreover, the training of Malian armed forces should take place closer to operational areas, making it more dangerous. Terrorists from the JNIM, an extremist group close to al-Qaeda, operate in the immediate vicinity. There are also new deployment plans among the German special forces who train special forces in neighboring Niger.
The corresponding bilateral mission named “Gazelle” is to be continued in the future under the EU mandate. Hence, German armed forces will operate even closer to the dangerous border region between Niger and Mali, where Islamist fighters’ terror attempts must be continuously anticipated.
Nonetheless, the missions abroad’ aim remains the same: to contain cross-border security threats, especially in the tri-border region of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso.
With the risk further increasing, however, the topic will become even more controversial in Germany. And with general elections being held in Autumn of 2021, a continuous German presence in Mali is all but certain.