France would start closing military bases in northern Mali by year-end, as the jihadist threat in the Sahel begins to shift south and expose more countries in the region to Islamist attacks.
"We are going to reorganise ourselves in line with this need to stop this spread to the south, and it will lead to a reduction of our military footprint in the north," Macron said.
Paris now plans to fold its presence into the so-called Takuba international task force, originally a training operation for Mali. The force currently comprises around 600 soldiers, half of them French. So far the Czech Republic, Estonia, Italy and Sweden have answered Macron's calls for contributions to help make Takuba function more as a counter-terrorism mission. Even if bigger allies like Germany sent hundreds of soldiers, winning the fight against insurgents spread across a semi-desert area the size of Western Europe won't be easy.