The French have announced they will begin pulling their troops out of Mali in March, and that their forces will now focus on flushing out Islamist rebels in the north of the country.
The news was given by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, just as the French Defence Minister was in Vannes seeing off French military instructors who will train the Malian army.
“We have a mission, and that is to expel, with the help of the Malian army, all terrorists and jihadists we find on Malian soil. Then our role is to step aside and let African and Malian forces take over, once we and the EU mission have trained them, and we want them to take that responsibility as soon as possible,” said Jean-Yves le Drian.
EU ministers meeting about Mali in Brussels were told that the Islamists had suffered “hundreds” of casualties at the hands of the French air force in the last two weeks, but that aid, reconstruction and good government would be needed to prevent the Islamist’s return. The delegates agreed on a “road map” to guide Mali out of its present crisis.