Pledging to “pursue counter-terrorism” in the region, Le Drian said that France will reorganise its military presence so that 3,000 soldiers are present in the region, where the Sahara desert joins savanna to the south.
It has served as a refuge for criminals and armed groups that have been involved in violence in Algeria and Libya as well as the countries Le Drian mentioned.
A French paratrooper was killed in Mali on Wednesday night, bringing France’s total losses there to eight.
The French deployment peaked at 5,000 but is set to be reduced to 1,000 soon.
But “a certain number of jihadi groups still want to regroup in the north”, the minister said, although UN forces are now present and the Malian army is rebuilding itself.
In the Central African Republic, where French troops arrived last November, 13 people, including two non-combatants, were killed in clashes between Muslim and Christian militias on Thursday.