On Thursday, U.S Army General Stephen Townsend, head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) met with General Francois Lecointre, the French military’s Chief of Staff, and other senior French officials to discuss “continued U.S.-French cooperation in Africa,” according to a statement released by AFRICOM.

The meeting was held as questions remain over whether President Donald Trump will maintain American troop levels in Africa or reduce them as had previously been reported.

“France is the United States’ oldest ally and a leader in the counterterrorism fight in Africa,” said General Townsend. “We share common threats, mutual concerns, and a commitment to fighting violent extremist organizations.”

The United States has provided aerial refueling, intelligence, logistics, training, and drone support to France’s anti-terrorism campaign in West Africa.

AFRICOM noted that U.S. intelligence collection had “helped facilitate” French efforts in the Sahel, while commending the French operation that resulted in the killing of the head of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abdelmalek Droukdel, in June.

The U.S. support to the French has been particularly significant in the former French colony of Mali where a Taureg rebellion in 2012 was taken over by al-Qaeda and Islamic State jihadists. The country is now plagued by the Islamist insurgency. 

Complicating matters further, the leaders of the Malian military recently deposed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with the members of Mali’s military responsible for the coup. The meeting fueled rumors that Turkish officials could have influenced the coup due to the ongoing tension between France and Turkey.

The Trump administration has ordered the Pentagon to focus on near-peer rivals such as Russia and China. In such a context, Africa is seen as less of a direct threat and Washington feels that Africa should be left to France and the European Union. However, with both China and Russia vying for a larger African presence, the French are hoping the U.S. will change its policy.