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France To Assist Ivory Coast Militarily After Withdrawing Troops From Burkina Faso

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France revised its approach in West Africa and pledged to provide military assistance to Ivory Coast after neighboring Burkina Faso ordered French troops to leave and promised to quell a deteriorating Islamist insurgency alone.

The French minister, Sebastien Lecornu, refrained from commenting on Burkina Faso’s decision while on an official visit to the commercial center of Ivory Coast, Abidjan, even as he reiterated France’s commitment to dealing with security issues in West Africa, where the Islamist insurgency is spreading.

“We will strengthen cooperation with Ivory Coast in terms of training and equipment because it is an important country for us,” he told reporters.

“Ivory Coast and Niger can take the opportunity to position themselves as alternatives in order to be the new countries at the heart of the Western and French presence in the counter-terrorism fight,” Ivorian historian and defense analyst Arthur Banga said.

Although French defense and diplomatic sources said in January that the special forces would be transferred to Niger, where a sizable presence of French and European forces are currently stationed, France has not officially announced where it will redeploy the troops. In Chad, France has a sizable military presence as well.

Discussions regarding how to stop the insurgency’s growth to the south have been sparked by the region’s growing concern for the safety of nearby states like Ivory Coast, Benin, and Togo, which have experienced an upsurge in attacks in recent years.

According to a French defense ministry official traveling with Lecornu, the Ivory Coast’s army is in a good position to play a significant role in the region’s conflict with the insurgents. Benin’s “impressive” investment in bolstering its military forces was also complimented by the official.

The official said, “Ivory Coast and Benin have the will to fight against terrorism.”

Early in March, French President Emmanuel Macron is scheduled to travel to sub-Saharan Africa, though he is anticipated to avoid visiting any former French possessions in the Sahel.

Islamist insurgency in Sahel region

Burkina Faso’s announcement on Sunday that France’s military operations on its territory have officially come to an end led the Sahel region’s struggle to enter a new phase with Islamist organizations affiliated with al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

In Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, the two terrorist organizations have seized vast tracts of land and driven millions of people from their homes.

It is unclear how the Burkinabe authorities intend to compensate for the withdrawal of some 400 French special forces from its region, which, according to the Africa Center for Strategic Research (ACSS), witnessed the largest number of Islamic attacks in the Sahel last year with about 3,600 people murdered.

Underscoring the unrest, the Burkinabe army announced on Monday that at least 51 soldiers had been slain in an ambush the previous week, one of the highest death tolls in a single strike on Burkinabe forces in recent memory .

Other states in the region may be able to position themselves as more dependable partners to Western powers as a result of Burkina Faso’s rejection of French military assistance.

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