President Emmanuel Macron vows to step up French fight against Islamists in Africa
France will intensify the fight against militant Islamist revival in northern and western Africa and will work more closely with Germany to help the region’s tinderbox, said President Emmanuel Macron on his first trip out Europe Friday. Visiting Mali a few days after taking office, Macron has promised to keep French troops in the Sahel region until there is no more “Islamic terrorism.” He said operations would intensify in response to signals that militant groups would come together and join.
“It is vitally important today that we are accelerating.” Our armed forces do their best, but we must accelerate efforts to secure the Sahel, said he was at a press conference in Gao, Mali, where he met with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and spoke with some of the 1,600 French soldiers based there.
The expansion of economic development in the impoverished Sahel is also part of its strategy, he said. “We have to win the war and win together in peace.” The early Macron trip in Mali has made a campaign promise, highlighting the importance it attaches to the fight against militants in the Sahel, who said it could threaten Europe. France has been particularly affected by Islamist violence, with more than 230 people killed in the last two years.
The Sahel, a politically unstable measure, all desert stretching from Mauritania in western Sudan to the east, houses several jihadist groups and is seen as a springboard for attacks against European targets.
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While France will continue to shoulder the burden of military fighters in North Africa and the West, Macron has said Germany and other European countries could do more to help both military aid and development aid. He said he had discussed Monday with the Malian minister of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin and the two decided “to strengthen our cooperation to help countries in the region.
“We need a helicopter and the latest generation of armored vehicles. It is within this framework that increased cooperation with Germany can make us more efficient.” Macron said he would participate in a meeting of the G5 Sahel – Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania – all former French colonies in the coming weeks. He told the French soldiers: “I do not risk your life for anything … but my determination of whether the action is total.” Macron later said he had promised to give them the equipment they needed.
France stepped in in 2013 to expel militants linked to al Qaeda who took over northern Mali last year. Since then, about 4,000 soldiers have been deployed, called the Barkhane force throughout the region to lead the Islamists. This paved the way for the UN to deploy its MINUSMA peacekeeping force of more than 10,000 people in the West African state.
In January, Germany’s Cabinet approved the deployment of eight helicopters and 350 more soldiers to Mali as part of the UN peacekeeping mission, which has extended the German force to about 1,000 soldiers.
However, MINUSMA lacked equipment and resources, making a political settlement between the Tuareg rebels and the increasingly fragile Mali government and allowing Islamists and human traffickers to operate a vacuum in the northern countries.
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