Emmanuel Macron made the desperate plea at a press conference following a summit in Pau, southwestern France, with the leaders of the five African countries up the G5 Sahel coalition – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. Mr Macron’s relationship with Donald Trump has been a turbulent one of late, having already failed in his attempts persuade the US President to stick with the Paris climate accord, and not to abandon the Iran nuclear deal. But he said on Monday evening: “If the US decided to withdraw from Africa, it would be bad news for us.
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
“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.”
Mr Macron’s desperate plea came after leading US military officials indicated Washington is considering a reduction in its military presence in Africa.
Chairman of the US 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 US or shifted to” the Pacific.
The meeting in Pau was aimed at highlighting the urgency of the increasing escalation in tensions in the Sahel region, when last week an attack by suspected jihadist militants in Niger killed 89 soldiers.
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Around 4,500 French troops have been deployed in the region since 2014 and on Monday, Mr Macron said he would be deploying an additional 220 troops there.
He wrote on Twitter on Monday evening: “I decided to engage additional combat capabilities in the Sahel.
“To start this dynamic, 220 soldiers will reinforce Barkhane’s troops already engaged on the ground. All partner countries which so wish are welcome.”
French military officials said that while the presence of US troops in the region is relatively small, its contributions there are still highly important, with 7,000 special forces on rotation in Africa and a further 2,000 soldiers taking part in training exercises.
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A French diplomatic official told Politico: “Macron plays with an open hand.
“Africom (United States Africa Command) is one percent of US resources abroad, and security in Africa is an interest we have in common.”
The US has not made a final decision on deployments in Africa, but Macron highlighted a tweet on Monday by the White House’s National Security Council, which was posted during the summit in Pau.
It said: “The United States strongly supports African, French and international efforts in the Sahel to strengthen security and combat terrorism.”
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But the French President’s efforts to convince Mr Trump about reducing military present could be challenging, with the US notably absent from the day’s summit events.
This included a working dinner attended by European Council President Charles Michel, the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki.
Mr Macron met the five African leaders fir three hours at the Château de Pau, who in a joint statement, reiterated their “common determination to fighting terrorist groups”.
The five African leaders also “expressed the wish for continuing French military involvement in the Sahel, and pleaded for a reinforcement of the international presence by their side.”
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Despite holding a private meeting at the NATO summit near London last month, recent relations between Mr Macron and Mr Trump have been icy, with the US President criticising his French counterpart’s description of NATO as suffering from “brain death”.
Mr Trump raged: “NATO serves a great purpose. I think that’s very insulting.
“Nobody needs NATO more than France. It’s a very dangerous statement for them to make.”