Obama directs $10M to fight terrorists in Africa

President Obama is directing $10 million in foreign aid to France to assist in counterterrorism operations on the African continent.

The assistance from the Pentagon will help French efforts to target terror groups in Mali, Niger and Chad, the president said in a memo to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry.

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"I hereby determine that an unforeseen emergency exists that requires immediate military assistance to France in its efforts to secure Mali, Niger, and Chad from terrorists and violent extremists," Obama wrote.

The aid is likely intended to support a French counterterrorism operation, codenamed Barkhan, that launched last month in partnership with the governments of several African allies.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that the mission was intended to prevent the establishment of a jihadist foothold, where “groups between Libya and the Atlantic Ocean can rebuild themselves, which would lead to serious consequences for our security," according to Agence France-Presse.

The BBC reported over the weekend that France had begun a bombing campaign against Islamist militants in northern Mali, shelling an area outside Timbuktu. Some 1,700 French troops have been assisting Malian forces in resisting al Qaeda-affiliated militants attempting to advance toward the capital of Bamako.

Earlier this month, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said the U.S. was "very focused on the threat of terrorism in Africa."

Rhodes said the administration was interested in pursuing situations, "where you have regional partners bringing these resources to bear, with the support of the United States.”

Rhodes said such joint efforts “can provide intelligence; it can provide certain unique capabilities that we can bring to bear, and it can also provide a political context where we’re not just dealing with the threat, but we’re also seeking to develop democratic institutions and development that can serve as a counterweight to terrorism."