French President Macron stresses on combating Jihadi threat

Cheryl Sanders
May 20, 2017

Pope Francis has sent a personal message to French President Emmanuel Macron, congratulating him on his inauguration to his new office and urging him to support the country's Christian traditions.

The trip to Gao, where some 1,600 troops are based and where he will also hold talks with Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, will reaffirm Paris' engagement, in stark contrast to his predecessor Francois Hollande, who began his term pulling troops out of Afghanistan.

Macron's first non-European trip as President of France has been to Mali.

"Germany can not intervene, considering its doctrine, as quickly and as efficiently as France", Macron said, referring to German sensitivities about sending forces overseas except for peace missions, in part due to memories of Nazi militarism. Macron said he spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this week about getting more logistical support and said Merkel backs the idea.

Presidential spokesman Sylvain Fort said that "in one or two cases" journalists had been contacted directly and offered some of the limited places available to travel with Macron to Mali on Friday.

"Germany is very present in back-up operations", he said.

That has been brought further to light after a spike in violence across Mali, where the former colonial power intervened more than four years ago to drive out al Qaeda-linked militants who hijacked a rebellion in 2012 by ethnic Tuaregs and attempted to take control of the central government in Bamako. He will also meet some of the 1,600 French soldiers stationed there, making it the largest base outside France.

The region's terror threat is "clearly a risk for Europe", he said, vowing that French troops would remain in Mali until the extremists are eliminated. He was greeted by Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and ranks of troops. The rest of his day there Friday will be devoted nearly entirely to familiarizing himself with French troops who are combating West African extremist groups. They are part of a broader mission, Operation Barkhane, comprising some 4,000 French soldiers in the G5 countries.

He also will have lunch with troops, tour a surgical unit, have a briefing on military operations and give a speech to French forces.

France's new president, Emmanuel Macron, on Friday pledged that his country would step up in its fight against Islamist factions in northern and western Africa.

While France would continue to shoulder the military burden of fighting militants in north and west Africa, Macron said Germany and other European nations could do more to help with both military and development aid.

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