According to several news reports from Africa, the French government is hoping to cut back its military presence in the Sahel to make room for a stronger European commitment.

If true, this decision comes less than a year after sending hundreds of extra troops to the Sahel. The last surge brought the total of French troops in the Sahel to 5,100. They are participating in “Operation Barkhane” that fights the growing jihadist insurgency in the region. French troops have been stationed in the region since 2013.

The French defense ministry has not commented on any troop withdrawal plans.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defense Minister Florence Parly both visited Mali in recent weeks to help the French government assess its troop presence in the Sahel.

Some military analysts believe that the move to cut back on French troops is because there is soon to be an influx of other European troops to replace the outgoing French.

The reduction of French troops will bring back the number of men in “Operation Barkhane” to January levels. At that time the security situation in the Sahel, especially in Mali, had deteriorated to the point where deploying extra French troops was deemed necessary. 

“We are getting close to the end of the year, a natural point to assess our progress,” Parly said during her visit to Mali. Her statement was referencing the comments that President Macron had made during the summer. Macron had said that France would reassess and restructure its Barkhane force by the end of the year. 

The French began their deployment to Mali, their former colony, in 2013 a year after a Tuareg insurgency had broken out. The insurgency was soon hijacked by the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).