French military presence in Sahel won’t change in coming months: Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron looks on at the Necker Hospital in Paris, during a visit, to give a speech on health research, in Paris, France

President Emmanuel Macron told a press conference here that French military’s presence in Africa’s Sahel region will not change in the coming months.

“Significant changes will undoubtedly be made to our military system in the Sahel in due course, but they will not take place immediately,” Macron said after he participated in a virtual summit of the G5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) on Tuesday.

A massive withdrawal of French forces “would be a mistake,” he said, noting that “it would be paradoxical to weaken our system at a time when we have a political and military alignment that enables us to reach our goals.”

On Januart 19, Macron announced the withdrawal of some French troops from the Sahel region following successes against Islamist militants and the arrival of more European forces.

According to Macron, adjusting France’s military presence in the region “does not mean a disengagement but an adaptation by focusing on key objectives — the fight against the terrorist groups and the fight to help the Sahel’s armies, but not to have a long military presence there.”

“Our duty is to help sovereign states that ask for it,” he said in response to rising anti-French sentiment in the region.

Along with thousands of peacekeepers of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), around 4,500 French troops have been deployed in the region since 2014 to help the forces of the G5 Sahel countries combat extremist fighters and restore security in the area. A year ago, France reinforced its presence with additional 600 troops.

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