France Mali Withdrawal Set For Late March

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French troops patrol in the streets of Gao on February 3, 2013. (SIA KAMBOU/AFP/Getty Images) | Getty Images

PARIS -- President Francois Hollande says France may start pulling out its troops from a military intervention in Mali against Islamist extremists at the end of March.

Government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said Wednesday that at a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, President Francois Hollande "confirmed that if all goes as planned, by the end of March the number of French troops engaged in Mali can begin to diminish."

Vallaud-Belkacem said the pullout will depend on an increase in the deployment of African forces, who are meant to take over the international effort to secure Mali and help its weak army keep the peace.

Hollande, fearing Mali was becoming a haven for international terrorists, launched a French military intervention on Jan. 11 against Islamist extremists who had started moving toward the capital.

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