Why France’s new president is visiting Mali

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In stark contrast to his opponent in the second round of the presidential election, French nationalist Marine Le Pen, Macron championed Europe.

Nineteen French soldiers have died serving in Mali since 2013 when Hollande launched an intervention to chase out jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda who had overtaken key northern cities, according to the latest defence ministry figures.

France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, is highlighting his determination to crush extremism with a scheduled visit to French-led military forces fighting jihadist groups in West Africa.

Macron also reaffirmed his commitment to helping the West African country, where French soldiers have been facing extremists since 2013.

During Friday’s trip to Mali, the new president’s first foray outside Europe since taking power, Mr Macron will be briefed on the inner workings of Operation Barkhane.

“It is not at all up to the Elysee to choose who among us has the right to cover a trip, whatever the theme”, the letter said. Macron said he spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this week about getting more logistical support and said Merkel backs the idea.

France has led global counter-terrorism efforts in largely francophone West Africa, a role that the US military has recognized and supported.

The newly minted French leader also said France was determined to act for continued security in the region, and would seek to strengthen cooperation with France’s European Union partner Germany to that end.

“Germany is very present in back-up operations”, he said.

He also said France and Germany will strengthen cooperation in the coming months to fight Islamic extremists in Africa’s vast Sahel region.

Africa is struggling more and more with terrorism.

NAN reports that Macron’s trip to Mali is the first trip as commander-in-chief.

Macron, a newcomer to worldwide diplomacy, put counter-terrorism at the top of his security priorities during the election campaign, vowing to strengthen support for West African allies.

Macron was greeted by Malian counterpart Ibrahim Boubacar Keita at an air base in the eastern city of Gao, home to France’s largest overseas military operation.

While France would continue to shoulder the military burden of fighting militants in north and west Africa, Macron said Germany and other European nations could do more to help with both military and development aid. Macron said he would take part in the coming weeks in a meeting of the so-called G5 Sahel countries – Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Mauritania – all former French colonies.

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