Chad has decided to recall half of its 1,200 troops battling Islamist militants in the tri-border area of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, a spokesperson for the Chadian authorities said on Saturday.

Chad deployed the soldiers in February to support a France-backed regional fight with insurgents linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State who have destabilised swathes of territory in West Africa’s Sahel region in recent years.

The decision to withdraw 600 of these soldiers was taken with the agreement of Chad’s Sahel allies, General Azem Bermandoa Agouna said, speaking on behalf of the Transitional Military Council in Chad. The recalled Chadian troops would be redeployed elsewhere, Agouna said, without giving further details.

France has also said it plans to reduce its presence in the Sahel to around half the current level of some 5,100 soldiers, although it has given no timeframe.

The former colonial power has hailed some successes against the militants in recent months, but the situation is extremely fragile with hundreds of civilians killed in rebel attacks this year.

Mahamat Idriss Deby, who leads the Transitional Military Council (CMT), has run Chad since his father, the former president, was killed while visiting the front line in April.

The military source said the 600 troops would be sent to Chad’s northern border with Libya and Sudan to disarm rebels seeking to return to take part in these talks, which are scheduled for the end of the year.

On August 21, 2021, Deby said the talks would not succeed unless all stakeholders were represented.