NATO chief ‘optimistic’ that allies will support France in Sahel region

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France's NATO allies would "very seriously" consider any official request by President Emmanuel Macron to become more involved in the war against Islamist groups in the Sahel region of Africa, NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told FRANCE 24 on Friday. Stoltenberg said he expects NATO allies to give a "positive response".

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Stoltenberg's comments came just a day after Macron said France was reviewing "all its options" following the death of 13 French soldiers after two helicopters collided during a combat mission in Mali, one of five African countries – including Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger – where the French "Barkhane" military operation against Islamist militants is now in its sixth year.

It was the heaviest single loss of troops in a French military operation in nearly four decades.

While France is a NATO member, it has been taking on the brunt of the fight in the Sahel, with other alliance members such as the US, UK, Spain, Denmark and Estonia offering limited support, mostly in the form of intelligence or logistical help.

Stoltenberg said that he expected France to get a positive response if it made a formal request for greater NATO involvement in the region.

"If France comes to NATO and actually asks for support, then I really expect that NATO allies will consider that very seriously because NATO allies understand the challenges we all face in the Sahel and NATO has the structures, we have the command structures, weve done it many times before."

Stoltenberg added that while any decision on NATO help would require consultation with the 28 other alliance members, he was "quite optimistic" and "absolutely confident" that a request from France would get a "positive response".

Stoltenberg noted several precedents for NATO forces conducting large-scale combat missions in regions ranging from the Balkans in the 1990s, to Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

"So NATO has the capacity to do a wide range of issues in support of France in Sahel," he said.

>> France's quagmire? Sahel region targeted by increasing jihadist attacks

On another issue, Stoltenberg defended himself against criticism that he had been too soft in his response to Turkey, a NATO member, following the launch of its military operation into nRead More – Source

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