News / Europe

Leaner French Defense Strategy Focuses on Africa

French troops patrol in the streets of Gao on February 3, 2013 as France jets carried out major air strikes today near Kidal.
French troops patrol in the streets of Gao on February 3, 2013 as France jets carried out major air strikes today near Kidal.
Lisa Bryant
Africa figures prominently in France's newly outlined military defense strategy - and experts say the Mali offensive may serve as a blueprint for future operations.  
 
Outlined by Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, the newly released review of France's national security and defense policy reflects the challenges of dealing with new military threats with less money.  
 
France is grappling with tough economic times.  But while the Defense Ministry will still shed tens of thousands of jobs, the Socialist government has decided to freeze the defense budget, rather than cut it. 
 
At a press conference, Le Drian said France needed to respond to rising new threats against adversaries with sophisticated technology and means.  The strategic review targets Africa - in particular, North Africa and the Sahel region - as a key geographic priority.  At least four French bases in Africa will be maintained. 
 
Christophe Guilloteau, a deputy from the opposition UMP party and a member of the commission that drafted the review, says France's Operation Serval in Mali was key in ensuring Africa would remain a defense priority for France.
 
In an interview on Radio France International, Guilloteau said those who believed France should further disengage itself from Africa changed their minds with this year's French offensive in Mali.  Had France not already pre-positioned its forces in nearby countries like Chad and Ivory Coast, he said, Paris could not have responded as rapidly as it did. 
 
Associate Africa Program fellow at London-based think-tank Chatham House, Paul Melly, believes the Mali operation may serve as a model for future French operations as well. 
 
"What France wants to do is to have Africa take the political leadership of security in the continent, which France is willing to provide the high-tech advanced equipment - heavy, logistical backup if you like - that African countries do not necessarily have themselves.  And Mali, in a sense, will be a model for this, because African troops will take over the vast bulk of the peacekeeping while France maintains a small force of about 1,000 troops for emergencies...  If this model works, it is one that could be extended more widely.  So Mali is something of a test bed," he said. 
 
While many considered France's offensive in Mali a success, critics - notably opposition lawmakers - note there is no clear exit strategy.  Thomas Klau, head of the Paris office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, also questions whether it can be easily replicated elsewhere. 
 
The defense review also pushes for a more integrated European defense program.  But Klau says that means convincing skeptics like Germany about the importance of intervening in Africa. 
 
"There is a slightly irrational trauma in Berlin that's precisely what France, and to some extent the UK want to do - to use Germany military means and financial resources to engage in post-colonial policy making in Africa.  I think the... fears are misplaced to a significant extent but it falls on France and, to the lesser degree the UK to reassure Berlin," he said. 
 
Melly says French President Francois Hollande has clearly stated that France's relations with Africa have turned the page; Paris now sees Africa as a partner.  Mali is a case in point, Melly says - France only intervened at the demand of the Malian government.   He says Mali has left its mark in other ways.  
 
"The success of the Mali operation has boosted the political self-confidence of the French military in showing that France can do a demanding, high-tech, long-distant operation if it's well-targeted and in a part of the world that France knows well and for which its troops are trained.  So it's a case of France doing what it's good at... where it has a strength and can do affordably," he said. 
 
And that, Melli says, appears to be at the heart of France's new defense strategy.

You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

China-India Border Standoff Continues as Leaders Hold Summit

New Delhi accuses hundreds of Chinese soldiers of illegally entering Indian territory in disputed region of Ladakh More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid