France to Significantly Reduce Military Presence in West and Central Africa

France is set to reduce its military presence in West and Central Africa to approximately 600 troops, aligning with President Emmanuel Macron’s initiative to curtail the French military footprint in the region, according to sources reported by AFP.

In February 2023, Macron announced plans for a “noticeable reduction” in French troop numbers in Africa.

This move comes amid rising anti-French sentiment in some former colonies and the growing influence of other nations, such as Russia, in the region.

Discussions with African partners indicate that France will significantly cut its so-called “pre-positioned” forces in Africa.

Two sources close to the government and a military source disclosed that France will retain only about 100 troops in Gabon, down from 350, and similarly reduce its forces in Senegal from 350 to around 100. In Ivory Coast, the number of troops will decrease from 600 to about 100, while in Chad, the troop count will drop from 1,000 to approximately 300.

Despite the reductions, France may periodically expand its military presence based on the needs of local partners, the sources indicated.

The French General Staff has declined to comment on these plans.

Up until two years ago, France had about 1,600 troops pre-deployed in West Africa and Gabon, in addition to over 5,000 troops in the Sahel region as part of Operation Barkhane, an anti-jihadist mission.

However, the French military has faced increasing resistance from local governments, resulting in a gradual withdrawal.

Military juntas that took power in Mali in 2021, Burkina Faso in 2022, and Niger in 2023 have all established security agreements with Russia, further challenging France’s presence in the region.

Chad remains the last Sahel country hosting French soldiers, under the leadership of Mahamat Idriss Deby, son of the long-time president Idriss Deby Itno.

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