Macron pleads with Trump not to cut off U.S. support for French forces in Africa

A French soldiers in Africa's Sahel region in Gao, northern Mali. EPA/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

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France is appealing to President Donald Trump not to cut off U.S. military support to French forces fighting Islamist militants in Africa, warning that it could undermine efforts to counter a growing terrorist threat in the Sahel region.

From bases in Niger, the U.S. military’s drone flights have delivered crucial intelligence and surveillance over a vast expanse in the Sahel, helping 4,500 French troops hunt down al Qaeda and ISIS-affiliated fighters. And U.S. air-to-air refuelling tankers have helped keep French aircraft in the air.

Trump administration officials, however, are sceptical of the French counterterrorism mission’s value and have refused so far to promise continued logistical and intelligence support that French forces rely on in their fight against al Qaeda and ISIS-linked groups, according to one current and one former U.S. official.

“We’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a French force that has not been able to turn the tide,” said a senior administration official, who was not authorized to speak on the record.

“It’s not even a case of whack a mole. For all that we’re spending, we’re not getting much out of it,” the official told NBC News.

The U.S. provides French forces with plane refuelling and intelligence from drones at a relatively modest cost out of the Pentagon’s vast budget. The administration has been reviewing its options, including possibly requiring France to reimburse the U.S. for the drone flights and refuelling services, the official said. “The United States and France have an enduring partnership that spans many efforts globally,” a Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement. “We maintain an open dialogue about future requirements and resourcing in Africa and other regions.”

Read more via NBC News

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