US Gen. Townsend confirms Russian mercenaries in Mali

General Stephen Townsend, Commander of the US African Forces (AFRICOM), said that Russian mercenaries known as the Wagner Group are deployed in Mali and are supported by the Russian army.

US General Stephen Townsend made important statements in an interview with the Voice of America (VOA) from his headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.

US African Forces (AFRICOM) Commander Townsend said Russian mercenaries known as the Wagner Group are deployed in Mali.


Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, head of the United States Africa Command.

Townsend pointing out that several hundred Wagner soldiers are supported by Russia, “They are stationed there with the support of the Russian army. Russian Air Force planes are delivering them.”

Noting that they are familiar with the Wagner Group, the US commander said, “We've watched them in the Central African Republic, Sudan, Libya. They don't follow anybody's rules but their own. They will exploit the country. They will create, they will break laws. They will do a gross violations of human rights. They will kill innocents and civilians. And then when the Malian people get tired of them, they won't leave.”

“In fact, they'll probably bring in proxy fighters,” Townsend said, citing the example of Libya.

Drawing attention to the possible danger for Mali, Townsend said, “We saw them do this in Libya where they brought in over 2,000 Syrian fighters. And those Wagner and Syrian fighters are still in Libya and the Libyans can't get them to go. And I predict, unfortunately, something very similar to that will likely happen in Mali."


On Friday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also confirmed the Wagner group's presence in Mali.

"The only thing we wish to see is that this (Wagner) involvement that doesn't create any difficulty in achieving what we want," in terms of cooperation between the Malian army and Minusma, the UN peacekeeping group in Mali.

Guterres said, "And of course, what we also want is to see the full respect of human rights and international humanitarian law." 

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian last week accused Wagner's mercenaries of "supporting" Mali's ruling junta under the pretext of fighting jihadists.

Le Drian said, "When we asked our Russian colleagues about Wagner, they said they didn't know anything. When it comes to mercenaries who are Russian veterans, have Russian weapons, are transported by Russian planes, it's surprising that the Russian authorities don't know about it. We live in a lie."


AFRICOM Commander Gen. Stephen Townsend also evaluated Chinese activities in the region as well as Wagner.

The US commander stated that China wants to build its first permanent military base on the coast of Equatorial Guinea.

Townsend said, “Global competitors are very active in Africa, probably most active in China. China considers Africa as its second continent. I've even heard of the term Fifth Island chain, these phrases should tell you what you need to know."

“China requires huge amounts of natural resources for their economy and their population, and they're looking to Africa to get many of those resources, arable land, fishing, strategic minerals, etc., energy concerns, are all in Africa. And so China's very actively competing there, economically primarily, but also militarily.”

Stating that they do not force their African partners to choose between China and the USA, Townsend underlined that China's construction of a military base in Equatorial Guinea worries the USA and the countries of the region, and said, "We expect them to take into account the concerns of their other international partners."

It was alleged that Jon Finer, Deputy National Security Advisor to US President Joe Biden, met with President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea in October 2021 to reject China's offer.