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Mon Jan 27, 2020, 04:17 PM

France warns U.S. against pulling troops from fight against Islamists in Africa's Sahel

France delivered a stern warning on Monday against possible U.S. troop cuts in West Africa, where groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State are expanding their foothold. The Pentagon is considering withdrawing the personnel as part of a global troop review ...

French Defense Minister Florence Parly said she warned her U.S. counterpart during a visit to the Pentagon that joint counterterrorism efforts in West Africa would be harmed by cuts to U.S. military assistance.

The possibility of cuts has alarmed France, which relies on U.S. intelligence and logistics for its 4,500-strong mission in the Sahel. The deaths of 13 French soldiers in a helicopter crash during a combat mission in Mali in November increased France’s determination to secure more support in the zone.

France believes it is time to increase, not ease, pressure on militants to prevent “Islamic State from rebuilding in the Sahel,” a senior French defense ministry official told Reuters. Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had said ahead of the Pentagon talks to reporters that he hoped Washington “will be rational to keep this partnership ... and that good sense will prevail.”

Parly recently visited the Sahel with counterparts from Portugal, Sweden and Estonia to press European allies to do more, especially by contributing special forces to a new French-led unit due to be set up this year. So far, take-up has been limited, with only Estonia committing 40 troops. Discussions continue with eight nations.


The Sahel is the ecoclimatic and biogeographic zone of transition in Africa between the Sahara to the north and the Sudanian Savanna to the south.

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