US maintains suspension of military assistance to Mali, says envoy


United States military assistance to the government of Mali will remain suspended despite the formation of a transitional government following the 18 August military coup, J. Peter Pham, US Special Envoy to the Sahel, said on Wednesday.

Pham, who recently visited Mali and met the new leaders of the transition, told a news conference the interim government marked progress towards conducting free and fair elections.

“But until such time as those are held, and a constitutional government is restored, we are obliged under US law to restrict our military assistance,” Pham said.

The policy means Mali will be without US military support, which includes training of troops, for the next 18 months, after which the interim authorities have pledged to hold an election.

The United States halted military support on 21 August following the ouster of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Mali’s international partners and neighbours are worried the coup, the second in less than a decade, could fuel further political instability and derail a joint fight against insurgents who have gained a foothold in the country.

Hopes of a smooth transition were dampened on Tuesday when an opposition coalition that led large-scale protests before the coup said it would not endorse the new government, claiming it had been sidelined in talks.

The United States has maintained its support during this period to other international partners in Mali such as France, who are battling militants there linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.

Pham said security assistance to international partners such as the G5 Sahel nations, the French Barkhane operation and European Takuba task force, or cooperation with the United Nations mission to Mali, remains in place.

“The restrictions are specific. They are security assistance to the regime that takes over from an elected government. It doesn’t involve humanitarian and development assistance which consist of the bulk of our assistance for Mali,” he said.