France to cut troop levels in Mali
March 29, 2013 -- Updated 0055 GMT (0855 HKT)
A convoy of French army vehicles head toward Gao, Mali on February 7.
(CNN) -- France will cut its troop levels in the west African nation of Mali from 4,000 service members to about 1,000 by the end of the year, French President Francois Hollande said Thursday evening during a live interview with CNN affiliate France 2.
Islamist extremists carved out a large haven in northern Mali last year, taking advantage of a chaotic situation after a military coup by the separatist party MNLA.
French involvement in the conflict began January 11, and in recent weeks, French and allied forces, including Malian and Chadian troops, have made significant inroads combating the rebels.
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