N’Djamena, 7 Jumadil Akhir 1434/16 April 2013 (MINA) – Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno said in an interview with French journalists that was posted online on Monday (15/4) announced Chad’s army will be withdrawing from the war in Mali, according to Al Jazeera report monitored by Mi’raj News Agency (MINA).
“Chad’s army has no ability to face the kind of guerrilla fighting that is emerging in northern Mali. Our soldiers are going to return to Chad. They have accomplished their mission,” Itno said.
The announcement of Chadian forces’ imminent withdrawal comes three months after the French-led mission to oust al-Qaeda-linked fighters in northern Mali began, and just days after a guerrillas blew himself up killed three Chadian soldiers.
Deby said Chad already has begun pulling out a battalion with the rest of the 2,000 Chadian soldiers to return progressively, according to the joint interview with France’s Le Monde newspaper, TV5 Monde and RFI radio.
On the other side, France has said it also wants to hand over responsibility for the mission to Malian and other African soldiers.
Chadian forces, trained in desert combat, have backed French forces in some of the heaviest battles during the war in northern Mali.
Their efforts have not come without cost; at least 23 Chadian soldiers were killed in one battle alone in February.
French President Francois Hollande has said that by July, about 2,000 French soldiers would still be in the former French colony, down from 4,000 at the peak deployment, and at the end of the year 1,000 French soldiers will remain.
The once-democratic nation of Mali fell into turmoil last year, following a March 2012 military coup in Bamako, the capital.
Bamako has long struggled to maintain control over the nation’s distant north, an area as large as Afghanistan.
The coup created a power vacuum which allowed fighters loyal to al-Qaeda to invade the north, where they imposed their implement of Islamic law.
France launched a military operation on January 11 after being asked to intervene by the country’s interim president.
In the first weeks of the campaign, French and Malian forces easily took back cities in northern Mali, but fighters remain in the desert fight a guerrilla war. (T/P09/E1)
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA).