France is to reinforce its troops in northern Mali, especially around the town of Tessalit, Le Drian told RFI’s Christophe Boisbouvier on the plane back from a visit to Bamako on Sunday.
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Saturday told RFI that the situation in the north of his country has worsened and Le Drian admitted that there has been a resurgence of “terrorist acts”, blaming the fact that the UN force, Minusma, “did not arrive at the moment it was needed”.
“It’s a matter of residual acts but one can see the terrorist armed groups’ intention of recapturing some of their positions,” the minister said. “It’s in large part due to the fact that the supply of arms via the south of Libya has become greater.”
Only 22 per cent of Minusma’s soldiers are north of the line that runs from the major northern cities of Timbuktu to Gao and the force lacked the logistical means to take up its planned positions, Le Drian said.
But, he added, it will take place “very rapidly”, largely thanks to the arrival of Swedish and Dutch blue helmets.
After intervening against armed Islamists and Tuareg separatists in January 2013, France had moved troops out of northern Mali to build a force that aims to combat jihadist groups throughout the Sahel region and the reinforcements will come from those moved to neighbouring countries.
They will stay there while the Alger accords between the government and six rebel armed groups are put into operation and Bamako reasserts its authority over the region.
In December Le Drian will launch the Dakar Forum with Senegal’s President Macky Sall in an effort to hand over the anti-jiahdi fight, including the stopping of arms supplies from Libya, to African countries.