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France Launches Military, Propaganda Offensive in Mali

'French soldiers have launched a new offensive in northern Mali. The operation, codenamed "Gustav," involves one thousand soldiers employing dozens of tanks, artillery, and bombers, as well as drones, for the first time. The offensive is part of the systematic expansion of the war by France and its allies.

Last week the European Union (EU) also began its "European Union Training Mission" (EUTM). Some 550 soldiers from 22 EU countries are tasked with training half of the Malian army over the next 15 months. A first contingent of 570 soldiers from the Malian capital, Bamako, has arrived to begin basic then specialized training, including in telecommunications or as snipers.

The official aim of the 12.3 million euro ($16.1 million) mission is to "rebuild" the Malian Army, so French forces can gradually withdraw. On March 28, French President Fran├žois Hollande announced in a television interview that his country would begin the withdrawal of its 4,000 troops in late April and halve their number to coincide with a UN "peace mission" due to take place in July. At year-end, 1,000 French soldiers would remain in Mali.'

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