05:30 GMT +326 September 2018
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    A man stands in front of the Djingareyber mosque on February 4, 2016 in Timbuktu, central Mali.

    Insufficient Funds: Sweden Drops Largest African Intel Unit, UN Commitment

    © AFP 2018 / SÉBASTIEN RIEUSSEC
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    Despite the deteriorating situation in the African nation of Mali, the Swedish contingent of about 250 soldiers, which is part of a major UN mission and was intended to continue until at least 2022, will be closed down next year due to insufficient funding. The initiative's annual cost has been estimated at about $105 million.

    Sweden will withdraw its intelligence unit from the UN operation in Mali in 2019, the newspaper Metro revealed.

    The 250 Swedish soldiers are currently part of the UN Minusma initiative and the Nordic country's largest UN commitment. The majority of them are stationed at Camp Nobel located north of the capital city Bamako, which is part of a larger UN camp, where several other nations also have their base.

    The Swedish initiative started in 2014 as part of the ongoing UN effort to secure the African country against various Islamist groups. The idea was to continue until 2022, but the Swedish base will be shut down completely for financial reasons. The annual cost of the Swedish presence in Mali has been estimated at between SEK 800 and 900 million a year ($95-105 million)

    ​"With the framework given by the Ministry of Defense, we cannot finance an independent contribution within the camp. There's simply not enough money," Lieutenant Colonel Anders B. Svensson of the Command Staff's Targeting Department told Metro.

    A report on Sweden's Mali effort by the Total Defense Research Institute (FOI) has evaluated the Swedish contribution as "over-qualified," which resulted in the UN being unable to fully process the notifications by the Swedish staff.

    "It has emerged is that intelligence production has been too ambitious in relation to what the UN is capable of managing, and has only had limited impact on the ability to absorb and utilize it effectively," FOI security analyst and the head of African studies Karolina Gasinska said.

    However, Gasinska also argued that the Swedish contribution had had a very positive effect in the role of a classic peacekeeper, with a high presence among local population and considered to be very professional in its role.

    READ MORE: Too Few Women in Power: Feminist Sweden Schools NATO on Gender Equality

    According to Gasinska the dismantling of the Swedish force is aimed at boosting Sweden's own protection.

    "The security situation in our immediate surroundings has changed and they want to bring staff home. As the Armed Forces put it in their latest budget, a continued contribution [in Mali] is considered to have negative effect on reaching the overall goal, which is to protect Sweden," Gasinska told Metro.

    At the same time, the situation in the African country has worsened dramatically, and the Swedish withdrawal could possibly have a negative impact on the country's security, as civilians remain the main target for attacks.

    ​That said, it is still not impossible for other military personnel to remain in Mali, according to Svensson.

    "If we are to remain in Mali, we must do something other than an Intelligence-Security-Reconnaisance task force, ISR. We may be able to afford some kind of contribution with the money we have received, but we are struggling to run our own camp," Svensson clarified.

    Minusma or United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali is considered to be the among UN's most dangerous missions in the world. The Swedish staff have been subjected to several attacks as well.

    The UN sent a mission to Mali in 2013 after an offensive by Islamic radicals led to the capture of many cities in the country's Tuareg-populated north, following which sharia laws were introduced and ambitions to create an independent state were voiced.

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