French President Emmanuel Macron announced on May 10 that French military forces rescued four hostages in Burkina Faso held by Islamist militants. Two were French, one was American, and one was South Korean. The operation cost the lives of two French soldiers.
Burkina Faso is now subject to Islamist attacks similar to those in Mali. Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has congratulated groups operating in Burkina Faso for swearing allegiance to the Islamic State. In an official statement, the French government thanked Burkina Faso and Benin for there “perfect cooperation;” presumably those two countries also played a role in the rescue. The French minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly, in a twitter statement praised the “valuable support of our American allies.” However, she provided no details about what that support was.
Whatever the American involvement was, it is unlikely that there were American casualties. France has by far the largest military contingent in West Africa, some 4,500. The United States has been involved in training of the Burkinabe military, so the total number of U.S. troops present is likely small. In comparison with the uproar over the October 2017 death of four American soldiers in Tongo Tongo, Niger, the French public response to these recent military casualties has been muted. The French commonly regard the former French colonies in West Africa, such as Burkina Faso, as Europe’s “near abroad,” and French public opinion is generally supportive of French military operations in the region, so long as they are small.