Amid a U.S. Drawdown, France Strives to Hold Its Line in the Sahel

Jan 29, 2020 | 10:00 GMT

A U.S. Army trainer instructs Malian soldiers on April 12, 2018, during an anti-terrorism exercise at the Kamboinse general Bila Zagre military camp near Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

A U.S. Army trainer instructs Malian soldiers on April 12, 2018, during an anti-terrorism exercise near Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. France is worried about helping manage regional militancy after the United States leaves the area.

(ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP via Getty Images)


  • Despite France's efforts to prevent a U.S. drawdown in West Africa, the United States will likely shift more of its assets and forces elsewhere to counter rising competition with Russia and China. 
  • France and its African allies consequently will struggle to replace the United States' significant intelligence, logistics and financial resources.
  • Russia will likely expand its interests in the insecurity-plagued region as it seeks to increase its clout across Africa to gain economic and political advantages.

Formally, at least, no decision has been made, but the writing appears to be on the wall: The United States is considering pulling out security personnel and assets from West Africa. It's a decision that is ratcheting up anxiety in Paris as French defense planners ponder the consequences of a U.S. pullout, particularly from the security-plagued Sahel. Already, senior French security officials, including Defense Minister Florence Parly, have vowed to go to Washington to try to discourage the Americans from withdrawing by reminding them that France supports U.S. efforts in other regions, like the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. Yet while the French may have some allies in the U.S. Congress, Department of Defense and the Department of State, the Trump administration is likely to push forward with its plan to shift personnel and assets elsewhere to better counter Russian and Chinese influence. That, in turn, could leave...

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