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

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms 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.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid