Cash-strapped France struggling to fund its military campaigns abroad

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The French government last week announced major cuts in defence spending which include the axing next year of 7,500 jobs in its armed forces, the subsequent closure of several military bases, the scrapping of an artillery regiment and the decommissioning of several warships. "The sovereignty of our country depends as much on tackling our public accounts as on our defence," said defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian as he detailed the cull on October 15th. But the minister is also under intense pressure over the massive, budget-busting spending of ongoing French military operations abroad, principally in West and Central Africa, and now also against Islamic State militants in Iraq. Lénaïg Bredoux reports on the opaque funding of the campaigns, including the indirect contribution of the French education ministry, and Le Drian’s controversial and urgent plans to set up public-private partnerships to finance French defence procurement through leasing deals.

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France is engaged in a series of enduring military campaigns abroad, against Islamist militants in Mali and four neighbouring Sahel countries, in peace-keeping operations in the civil war-torn Central African Republic (CAR), and in air strikes against Islamic State forces in Iraq. There is increasing speculation that it may yet also find itself involved on another front, in conflict-wracked Libya.