Mattis: US not planning to cut back 'one bit' of support for French operations in Mali

Mattis: US not planning to cut back 'one bit' of support for French operations in Mali

The United States has no plans to curtail military support to French-led operations against militants in Mali, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisWatchdog: Former Pentagon spokeswoman misused staff for personal errands Senate panel advances Pentagon chief, Joint Chiefs chairman nominees The Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment MORE said Tuesday.

“We have no intention of cutting back one bit on that support,” Mattis said at a press conference in Paris alongside his French counterpart.

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The Pentagon has been re-evaluating the U.S. military posture in Africa following a deadly ambush in Niger last year, as well as while it implements the National Defense Strategy that calls for a shift in focus from terrorism to the so-called great power competition with Russia and China.

France has about 4,000 troops in Mali leading operations against militants linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The French forces in Mali were those who came to the rescue of U.S. troops in Niger during the 2017 ambush.

The U.S. supports the French effort with intelligence, surveillance and logistics such as refueling and transportation. U.S. funding for regional French-led operations is about $46 million in the latest budget.

On Tuesday, Mattis specifically said U.S. intelligence and logistics support would continue.

“We will maintain the intelligence support and logistics support, and we fully embrace the French mission there, as do a number of other of our allies,” he said.

Mattis also commended France for acting “swiftly” in Mali years ago.

“The French-led effort in Mali, if you go back a couple years, I think had France not acted swiftly and decisively, Mali would have fallen to the terrorists,” he said. “It’d be an altogether different meeting we are having here today. Fortunately, the French moved quickly, and we have also supported the French-led effort with the African troops that the French are supporting."