France’s Macron in Chad to meet troops in Sahel battling jihadists
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French President Emmanuel Macron is visiting Chad this Saturday to meet French troops deployed in the Sahel with Operation Barkhane, ahead of talks with his counterpart Idriss Deby.
After landing at Kossei air base, Macron met first with Chadian President Idriss Deby before greeting and sharing a pre-Christmas dinner with French soldiers from Operation Barkhane in the capital, N'Djamena.
Macron brought enough champagne, fois gras and chocolate for 1,300 troops with him. The president's personal chef Guillaume Gomez made the trip as well to ensure the troops received a holiday meal from home despite temperatures that can reach 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit).
Macron speaks to military commanders
Macron also spoke with the commanders of British, Estonian, German and Spanish units that are taking part in the operation.
According to the Elysee palace, Macron is using his first visit to the north-central African country to reaffirm his commitment to the fight against extremism in the region. The French government's objective is to strengthen its partnership with the new anti-jihadist force of the G5 Sahel supported by Mauritania, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Chad.
The Barkhane force, which boasts some 4,500 French troops, was launched in 2014 to fight jihadists in the region. A Barkhane commander said the operation's troops carry out 600 operations each month.
French troops patrol huge region
The Sahel region with its huge expanse of remote desert is home to several jihadist groups.
Jihadist groups have been largely chased out of northern Mali by the French military intervention, however they have regained territory in central Mali.
Chad, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania and Niger -- among the poorest countries in the world -- have faced a barrage of terrorist attacks as they are on the figurative and literal frontline of the war against Islamist militants.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)