U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday that the U.S. will not reduce its support for the French-led military operations against insurgents in Mali.
“We have no intention of cutting back one bit on that support,” said Mattis.
Speaking alongside Mattis at a press conference in Paris, French Defense Minister Florence Parly said the Pentagon chief reassured her that any changes in U.S. operations or forces in Africa would not affect support provided to France.
The Pentagon has been reevaluating its troop presence and operations in Africa after the ambush in Niger last year that killed four U.S. soldiers and four of their Niger counterparts. French forces were part of the rescue force that went to the aid of U.S. forces after the Niger attack.
French leaders have previously suggested they’d like to see continued or additional American support in Africa, where militant groups continue to wage attacks.
Extremist groups linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State organization are active in Mali, targeting Malian and French troops and other high-profile targets including the headquarters of a new regional counterterror force.
The U.S. and other western nations provide funding and support for a regional counterterror force, the G5 Sahel, which includes forces from Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania.
In addition, the U.S. in the latest budget has provided $46 million for French-led military operations in the region. U.S. forces also provide intelligence, surveillance, refueling and transport assistance for the French troops in the Sahel.
Mattis is in Paris for meetings with top leaders, and is heading to Brussels for a meeting of defense ministers on Wednesday.
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