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Paris faces the challenge of persuading the Pentagon to stay on the African coast

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — French Defense Minister Florence Barley, during her visit to Washington on Monday, will try to persuade the Pentagon not to withdraw from the African coast, as its presence represents a valuable support for the French forces, who are under pressure to achieve results in the war against the jihadists.

Also on the agenda between the two allies is to discuss the future of the international coalition against the Islamic State in a tense regional context.

The US Army Chief of Staff, General Mark Millie, recently said that his country intends to reduce its presence in Africa, at a time when Paris and its coastal partners have announced intensified efforts to defeat jihadi groups that have intensified their attacks in recent times.

The withdrawal of America from West Africa will be a major blow to the 4,500 French forces operating as part of Operation “Barkhane”, and they will be deployed in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.

Washington provided Operation Barkhan with intelligence and surveillance capabilities, thanks to its drones, air refueling and logistical transportation, at an annual cost of $ 45 million.

The French government said, “The American presence is vital in the region, because it provides extremely important capabilities, some of which cannot be compensated.”

Strategic rebalancing

French President Emmanuel Macron, at the Boe Summit in France (southwest), with the heads of state in the Sahel on January 13th, acknowledged that the US withdrawal from Africa “would be a bad development for us.”

Sahel heads of state asked Washington to maintain its operations in the region.

Speaking about “the spread of terrorism”, the French President stressed that he hopes to “convince President Trump that the fight against terrorism is also present in this region, and that the Libyan issue is not separate from the situation in the coast and in the Lake Chad region.”

“As Florence Barley confirmed during her visit to the coast (Monday and Tuesday), the process of strategic rebalancing must not take place at the expense of our work on the Sahelian desert,” Colonel Friedrich Barbery, spokesman for the French Chief of Staff, said Thursday.

On the opposite bank of the Atlantic, the debate remains open. General Milli said in mid-January that “the issue that we are working with the French is on the level of support we are providing them. Is it too much? Is it too little? What should be done?”

“Absolutely frankly, no decision has been made yet,” US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Wednesday.

For the United States, Esber recalled, “the main task is to compete with Russia and China” as stipulated by the National Defense Strategy of 2018. “On the counter-terrorism level, I want to emphasize that our priority is threats against our national territory.”

The number of American soldiers in West and East Africa ranges between 6 and 7 thousand, especially in Somalia.

In Washington, Paris could benefit from the support of US lawmakers, Democrats and Republicans alike, including Senator Lindsey Graham, who is close to President Donald Trump – and Mark Asper, in three separate messages, urged not to reduce the capabilities of the US military in Africa (AFRICOM) ).

Another French incendiary will also address her incendiary file: the fate of the international coalition against the Islamic State.

Paris wants to continue the activity of the coalition, which was founded by Washington, to deny the jihadi groups that carried out operations on its soil the restoration of their ranks.

But the situation in the region is volatile. At the beginning of January, the Iraqi parliament voted in favor of withdrawing foreign forces from Iraq, including 5,200 American soldiers and about 150 French soldiers.

The decision was taken a day after the Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a US airliner in Baghdad.

Iraq is the backbone of anti-terrorist operations in Syria, and thousands of jihadists, including Westerners, are being held there.

President Donald Trump and his Iraqi counterpart, Barham Salih, agreed on Wednesday at the Davos conference on the need to maintain military coordination between the two countries.

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