Chad’s government said its army would continue participating in regional task forces targeting jihadist groups, as well as the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, following President Idriss Deby’s suggestion it might withdraw troops.
Chad is a key contributor to a multi-national force in the Lake Chad basin fighting Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram and another in the Sahel zone countering militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.
It is the largest troop contributor to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) with more than 1 400 soldiers.
In a speech on Friday after fighting between the army and Boko Haram, Deby said: “From today, no Chadian soldier will take part in an external military operation.”
In a statement on Sunday, Chad’s foreign affairs ministry said Deby’s remarks were misinterpreted and meant the army would not conduct unilateral operations beyond its borders in the Lake Chad basin.
“It was never a question for Chad of disengaging from the Multi-national Joint Task Force or from the G5 Sahel joint force, much less from MINUSMA,” the statement said.
Chad’s armed forces are among the most respected in the region, a reputation forged during decades of war and rebellions and honed in a 2013 campaign against al Qaeda-linked Islamists in northern Mali.
The G5 Sahel force and its main backer France are trying to bolster the force, which has done little to reverse deteriorating security across the semi-arid strip of land below the Sahara Desert.
The Boko Haram insurgency, starting in north-east Nigeria in 2009, continues, with attacks spilling over into Chad, Cameroon and Niger.
In March, Boko Haram carried out its deadliest attack on Chad’s army, killing 100 soldiers in an ambush. The army said it killed as many as 1 000 Boko Haram fighters in a subsequent military engagement.