France revises counter-terrorism strategy in Africa


French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian regularly hails France’s military intervention in Mali as a success.


Launched in January 2013, Operation Serval forced jihadists out of the northern part of the country. But the Islamic extremists subsequently spread out across the Sahel region, finding refuge particularly in southern Libya.

To combat the jihadists, France has decided to re-organise its military bases in the region.

On a visit to the US last week, Le Drian explained the aim of the French plan. “We want to be more reactive, more available and have one commander for the force,” he said. “This is a long-term mission. It will cover the whole region with several bases. In all, there will be 3,000 soldiers in that zone permanently.”

The soldiers are to be positioned in Gao (Mali), Niamey (Niger) and Jamena (Chad), with the logistical base in Ivory Coast’s Port of Abidjan and special forces in Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso).

France will not be increasing the number of its troops in Africa – it also has more than 3,000 soldiers in Djibouti, Gabon and Senegal – but will relocate some of them.

‘Indispensable’ US military support

While in Washington, Le Drian hailed the US military’s partnership with France in Africa as “indispensable” in battling extremist groups in the Sahel region.

The Pentagon provided aerial refueling tankers, cargo aircraft and intelligence, including unmanned drone aircraft, to bolster the French effort in Mali.

France’s operations in Africa have earned plaudits from US politicians and pundits on both sides of the political aisle, with US Vice President praising France’s military “decisiveness…competence and capability” last February.

Meanwhile, Washington has expressed deep concerns over the situation in Libya and announced plans to train up to 8,000 Libyan soldiers to boost security on the country’s borders.

After talks with his US counterpart, Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, Le Drian noted that efforts to crack down on extremists in southern Libya would be a “long-term task”.

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