Denmark’s armed forces announced on Thursday that it would be withdrawing Danish special forces currently deployed as part of an European counterterrorism task force in Mali. The withdrawal follows demands by Mali’s transitional government for the immediate departure of Danish troops participating in the task force.
According to the press statement, the Danish military has begun planning for the return of Danish personnel and their equipment to Denmark. While Copenhagen says that it is too early to estimate how long the process will take, it says that “several weeks” will be needed to complete their departure from Mali. Danish Defense stresses that Danish personnel participating in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) are not affected by this decision, as they are attached to UN mission headquarters in the Malian capital of Bamako.
The Danish forces are part of Task Force Takuba, a 15-nation task force providing special forces, logistical and tactical support to Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger in their campaigns against Islamist militants linked to al-Qaeda or Islamic State. The Danish contribution consists of around 105 troops, with around 60 special forces soldiers of the Jægerkorpset, a surgical team of around 12, a support staff of 10 and several staff officers. Danish forces have been in Mali for just over two weeks, with the surgical team first to arrive on January 12., and the special forces detachment arriving on January 17.
Mali’s military-led transitional government issued a demand earlier this week for the immediate withdrawal of the Danish troops, with a statement released on Monday claiming that the deployment of Danish forces “took place without its consent”. Bamako says that it had not yet authorized the deployment of Danish troops, adding that Norway, Portugal and Hungary had not deployed troops while waiting for approval.
In a joint statement released late on Wednesday, the members of Task Force Takuba urged the Malian government to permit the Danish forces to stay, saying that they deeply regretted the accusations that they had been deployed without authorization. The statement emphasized that the member nations were acting “in full accordance” with both Malian and international law during their operations supporting the Malian armed forces, with Copenhagen accepting in 2021 a formal invitation made by Bamako in 2019 to deploy Danish forces.