Chadian President Idriss Deby announced Sunday that the country would withdraw its troops from northern Mali, after a suicide attack killed three Chadian troops Friday. The announcement reflects the uncertainties that surround Chad’s increasingly prominent role in efforts toward regional stability.
In January, Chad deployed soldiers to assist the French military offensive in northern Mali. Chadian forces there, which currently number around 2,400, have seen some of the heaviest fighting in the war. Although French, Chadian, and Malian forces quickly conquered territory after the intervention began, the ensuing months have seen regular bombings and raids by Malian Islamists, as well as prolonged fighting in far-northern deserts. In late-February, at least 23 Chadian soldiers died fighting Islamist rebels in the Adrar des Ifoghas mountains.
As France passes responsibility for securing northern Mali to African partners, Chad has positioned itself as a regional power. Yet different outlooks between Chad and Western powers, as well as instability in the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad’s immediate neighbor, complicate Chad’s ability to project leadership.