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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 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.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid