When it comes to ongoing conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, most reporters have focused their attention on Syria, Iraq, and, to a much lesser extent, Yemen. There are other battlefields wherein state actors are trying to put down Islamist rebellions. One of those theaters of war is Mali, which has been mired in a civil war since 2012. In order to aid the government of Mali, Paris sent thousands of French soldiers to the country in 2012. Many are still there fighting groups like Ansar Dine, Boko Haram, and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Reports by France 24 and The Atlantic were used as references for this article.

According to the French Republic, on February 21, two French soldiers were killed when their armored vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device or IED. The office of President Emmanuel Macron released a statement expressing sorrow for the loss of the two soldiers. The statement also confirmed the fact that the two soldiers belonged to the 1st Spahi Regiment. A Malian Islamist group with ties to Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Currently, there are about 4,000 French troops in Mali. Since the launch of Operation Serval in 2012, about 16 French troops have been Killed In Action. Currently, the French Army in West Africa is participating in Operation Barkhane, which is designed to disrupt and eliminate Islamic terror groups in Mali and other African nations.

Wars in Africa

Mali is not the only theater of operation for the French Army in Africa. Approximately 2,000 French soldiers are deployed to the Central African Republic as part of an international peacekeeping force designed to stop internal violence between Christians and Muslims. So far, about three French soldiers have been killed in action in that conflict.

Elsewhere, in East and North Africa, French special forces are participating in operations in Libya and Somalia. A large contingent of French soldiers, including the legendary French Foreign Legion, are based in nearby Djibouti, which is also home to thousands of US Navy sailors, Marines, and Army soldiers. The US and European forces in this region are all part of Operation Enduring Freedom-Horn of Africa.

On top of all of this, French troops are still deployed in Afghanistan.

Dramatic changes

So far, the French government has already spent millions of Euros on its missions in West Africa. The European Union, however, wants to ultimately spend 350 million Euros on creating a 5,000-man strong G5 Sahel force tasked with patrolling Africa's many war zones. The projected battle areas for this force will include Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, and Mauritania. Most of these countries were once French colonies, thus underscoring Paris' long-term commitment to supporting Francophone governments in Africa.

Last week, major shockwaves reverberated in Europe, when President Macron announced that he plans on reintroducing mandatory military service in France.

Although Macron promised to do this during his campaign against the National Front's Marine Le Pen, many commentators doubted that he would actually put the measure in place. If enacted, an estimated 600,000 to 800,000 French citizens would be available for military service. France already has the largest and strongest army in Western Europe, and this new conscription law would more than double the size of the Fifth Republic's forces.