WASHINGTON — The United States will not demand payment from France for the use of U.S. transport planes ferrying French forces and equipment to Mali, the Pentagon said Jan. 22.
“We’re not asking for compensation or reimbursement from the French,” spokesman George Little told reporters.
“The focus right now is not on money but is on achieving our shared goal of holding militants in northern Mali.”
An initial arrangement had assumed the French would reimburse Washington for airlifting troops, tanks and other hardware to Mali but the Americans have since dropped that requirement, a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.
The Pentagon said the U.S. Air Force had deployed C-17 cargo planes for five sorties as of Jan. 22, carrying more than 80 French troops and 140 tons of supplies to the war-torn African nation.
The United States also was providing intelligence to Paris, drawing on its network of satellites and surveillance drones.
France has asked Washington help with refueling its warplanes taking part in the fight against Islamist fighters in Mali but President Barack Obama’s administration has yet to approve the request.
Amid questions about the long-term goal of the French operation, the White House so far has taken a cautious approach to backing the French effort despite public declarations of support.
“It’s been just over 10 days since the French began their operations. We have provided intelligence support and airlift as well and we’re going to continue to work with the French to determine what their future needs might be,” Little said.
He denied the administration was deliberately delaying any decision on refueling.
“This is not any kind of slow roll on our part. This is a deliberate effort to consult with the French to assess how best we can best support them in the context of support provided by other countries,” he said.
The United States has a vast fleet aerial refueling tankers, far outstripping any other country or NATO ally.
The U.S. military has about 414 tankers, according to the Defense Department, while France has 14, one of the larger fleets in Europe.