The UN Security Council unanimously voted yesterday to withdraw a UN force from Chad and the neighboring Central African Republic (CAR) despite concern about the protection of civilians in the region.
The council ordered the withdrawal, which was requested by Chad, to be completed by the end of the year.
The resolution initially cuts the military component of the UN mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) from 3,300 to 2,200 troops (1,900 in Chad and 300 in CAR) and 25 liaison officers.
The first cut is expected to be made by July 15 and the withdrawal of the remaining troops will start on October 15. The pullout of all UN forces should be completed by December 31.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon welcomed the resolution, under which the Chadian government assumes full responsibility for protecting civilians "under international norms".
The UN force, which currently also includes 1,075 civilians, was created in 2007 to protect hundreds of thousands of refugees from Darfur and displaced Chadians. It never reached its planned full contingent of 5,200 peacekeepers, including 4,900 in Chad.
From 2009, the UN force took over from a European Union peacekeeping force. But the Chadian government of President Idriss Deby wants the UN mission terminated by the end of the year.
Deby has criticized the UN mission as "a failure," and accused the troops of remaining behind the safety of their razor-wire fences and not venturing out to help refugees.
Last month, Amnesty International appealed for the peacekeepers to remain in Chad, after a recent spate of bloodshed in the east of the landlocked central African country. The organisation warned the move could leave large numbers of "vulnerable" people at risk.
And UN agencies have warned that the planned departure of the peacekeepers could leave a security vacuum in eastern Chad, where humanitarian workers face constant attacks by bandits.