Hollande confirms French troop drawdown in Mali from March

French President Francois Hollande confirmed on Wednesday that a drawdown of French forces in Mali will begin in March as long as the military operation there continues to go well, a government spokeswoman said.

"As far as Mali is concerned, the president confirmed this morning that if everything goes to plan, the number of French troops in Mali will begin to fall from the month of March," she said in a briefing to reporters following a cabinet meeting.

Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian had earlier said that the French force in Mali had reached a total of 4,000 men and would not be increased any further.

French troops were Tuesday engaged in fighting with the remnants of armed Islamist groups that have been routed from most of the northern Mali towns they had controlled since last year.