PAU, France — French President Emmanuel Macron called for his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump not to pull military forces from Africa, warning it could endanger the fight against terrorism.
“If the U.S. decided to withdraw from Africa, it would be bad news for us,” Macron said late Monday at a press conference following a summit in Pau, southwestern France, with the presidents of the five African countries that make up the G5 Sahel coalition: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
“I would like to be able to convince President Trump that the fight against terrorism to which he is deeply committed is playing out also in this region.”
Macron’s remarks came after top U.S. military officials indicated Washington is contemplating a reduction in its military presence in Africa. Arriving in Brussels for meetings at NATO headquarters on Monday, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said resources “could be reduced and then shifted, either to increase readiness of the force in the continental U.S. or shifted to” the Pacific.
The meeting in Pau was intended to underscore the urgency of the increasingly dangerous situation in the Sahel region, where the French military has long led the West’s counter-terrorism efforts.
Some 4,500 French soldiers have been deployed in the area since 2014, when Mali requested help.
French officials said that while the U.S. military commitment to the region is relatively small, its contributions there are still critical. The U.S. has 7,000 special forces on rotation in the continent and an additional 2,000 soldiers engaged in training missions. It also has a major drone base in Niger, providing important intelligence capabilities.
“Macron plays with an open hand,” said a French diplomatic official. “Africom [United States Africa Command] is 1 percent of U.S. resources abroad, and security in Africa is an interest we have in common.”
Macron on Monday also highlighted a tweet by the White House’s National Security Council, which was posted during the summit in Pau, expressing strong support for efforts in the Sahel.
“The United States strongly supports African, French and international efforts in the Sahel to strengthen security and combat terrorism,” it said.