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France begs U.S not to pull troops out of West Africa

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France on Monday asked the U.S. to keep supporting its operations against Islamist extremists in West Africa, after the New York Times reported that the U.S. is considering pulling out of the region.

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said that she had raised the issue at a Washington meeting with her U.S. counterpart Mark Esper, who is conducting a wide-ranging review of overseas commitments.

“I had the opportunity to tell Esper again that the U.S. support is critical to our operations and that its reduction would severely limit our effectiveness against terrorists,’’ Parly said.

French troops have been fighting Islamist extremist groups in West Africa’s Sahel region since 2013, at the invitation of national authorities who have struggled to contain the jihadists.

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The New York Times reported last month that Washington was considering ending assistance to the French forces and abandoning a new drone base in Niger.

According to the report, the U.S. currently provides intelligence, logistics and mid-air refueling support to the French mission.

Mr Esper refused to comment on any specific U.S. redeployments, saying no decisions had yet been taken, but that the goal was to shift the military’s focus to great power competition with China, then Russia.

dpa/NAN

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