France, too, has become extraordinarily active in Africa over the past year. First it flew up to 4,000 soldiers, including special forces, to block the advancing al-Qaeda linked rebels in Mali; then, more recently, it sent another 1,000 troops to the Central African Republic to suppress Muslim-Christian violence following a coup there. In both conflicts, the U.S. offered extensive air transport plus other logistical and intelligence support to the French. According to The Associated Press, a French buildup would include basing 3,000 permanent French soldiers in the Sahel region, and pre-positioning Mirage and Rafale fighters at an air base in Chad, actions that the French hope will both stabilize the region and encourage even more U.S. support.
"I don't think we want Americans to lose interest in this very sensitive zone," French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.
European foreign ministers have just agreed to send a rapid deployment force of up to 600 troops to bolster French and UN peace efforts in the Central African Republic. Separately, Germany and Britain are sending logistical support. Germany's new defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen, said her country should engage more strongly in Africa by sending additional military trainers to Mali and supporting the French intervention in Central African Republic.