News / Africa

French Troops to Begin Withdrawal From Mali in April

France's President Francois Hollande (C) speaks to military officials as he attends a ceremony to the memory of Stephane Hessel, at the Invalides in Paris, March 7, 2013.France's President Francois Hollande (C) speaks to military officials as he attends a ceremony to the memory of Stephane Hessel, at the Invalides in Paris, March 7, 2013.
x
France's President Francois Hollande (C) speaks to military officials as he attends a ceremony to the memory of Stephane Hessel, at the Invalides in Paris, March 7, 2013.
France's President Francois Hollande (C) speaks to military officials as he attends a ceremony to the memory of Stephane Hessel, at the Invalides in Paris, March 7, 2013.
Anne Look
French President Francois Hollande said that French troops will begin pulling out of Mali in April. French, Malian and Chadian troops continue to face resistance from Islamist militants in the north, and analysts say the militant threat to both northern Mali and the greater Sahel region is far from neutralized.

Hollande said the French military campaign in Mali that began on January 11 is in its "ultimate phase."

He said this is the final stage because they have succeeded in all the other stages: the liberation of the major towns and the securing of Mali's national territory. He said this last stage will last for the whole month of March, and beginning in April there will be a decrease in the number of French soldiers in Mali - as soon as the African forces take over with support from the Europeans.

Hollande spoke Wednesday in Poland, as French and Chadian troops continue to face fierce resistance in the Ifoghas mountains of far northeastern Mali.

The area is the longtime hideout of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM. It is where some of the fighters from the various al-Qaida-linked groups who controlled northern Mali for 10 months are believed to have fled.

The French say they have recovered impressive caches of weapons in the Ifoghas and are reporting dozens of Islamists captured or killed.

Chad says its troops in that zone killed two key AQIM field commanders - Abu Zeid and Mohktar Belmokhtar. Confirmation remains sketchy, however, and Paris has been circumspect.

On Wednesday, Hollande said the French would reveal more information in coming days on "successes" in the Ifoghas, including the killing of certain "terrorist leaders," though he didn't name anyone.

French and Malian forces also are trying to round up Islamist fighters holed up in villages around the northern town of Gao.

France lost its fourth soldier Wednesday since the start of the campaign in a rebel ambush 100 kilometers east of Gao. The French army said the Malian army, backed up by French airpower, killed 30 Islamists in that engagement.

The question of what will happen when the French withdraw has been persistent since the first French airstrike in January.

Sahel security experts, like J. Peter Pham of the Washington-based Michael S. Ansari Africa Center, say it is dangerous to underestimate the number of militants who are "biding their time," as well as the work still needed to properly train and equip the regional African force, which so far has been slow to deploy.

"If the French do withdraw most of their 4,000 troops, you're going to have a relatively weak African force, poorly trained, heading right into the rainy season without the strength of the French forces, facing militants who have gone to ground or gone to the mountains or wherever now, crawling back out and potentially launching asymmetric attacks all throughout the rainy season that could turn the African forces into little more than defending isolated garrisons," said Pham.

Jihadist groups in northern Mali repeatedly pledged revenge attacks against France and any African countries joining the regional force.

Militants so far have carried out three suicide bombings targeting the towns of Gao and Kidal in northern Mali.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Johan Bosman from: Flanders
March 13, 2013 6:47 AM
Once more by using the vague term "militants" there is no distinction made between the terrorist islamists and the Tuareg resistance fighters!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid