France to Announce Troop Reduction in Sahel Operations: Sources

PARIS (Reuters) – French President Emmanuel Macron will announce on Thursday a reduction in French troops battling Islamist militants in the Sahel region of West Africa, two sources with knowledge of the decision told Reuters.

The decision was made during a defence cabinet meeting on Wednesday, the sources said.

Macron is due to speak at a news conference in Paris later in the day.

Macron had already pushed back a decision on a troop reduction after a virtual summit in February of the five Sahel countries – Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania – and their allies, during which Chad announced the deployment of 1,200 troops to complement 5,100 French soldiers in the area.

The two sources were not aware of how many troops would be pulled out.

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Last year, Paris boosted its troop numbers for its Barkhane counter-terrorism operation in the Sahel by 600. That move was meant to be temporary.

Military and diplomatic sources had indicated that an “adjustment” in the French presence would depend on the involvement of other European countries in the Takuba Task Force fighting militants in the Sahel alongside the Malian and Nigerien armies. Those forces have ramped up in recent months.

The foreign and armed forces ministries declined to comment. The presidency did not respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by John Irish; additional reporting by Tangi Salaun and Michel Rose editing by Richard Lough)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

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