Hagel approved the order after speaking with French Minister of Defense Jean-Yves Le Drian Monday night from Afghanistan where he was visiting troops. Le Drian asked the U.S. to help get African troops quickly into the country to prevent the violence there from spreading, said Pentagon spokesman Carl Woog.
There are more than 1,000 French troops in the Central African Republic, where Christian armed fighters launched an attack on the capital last week that killed about 400 people. The fighters oppose the Muslim ex-rebels now in charge of the former French colony.
Woog said Hagel directed the U.S. Africa Command to begin transporting forces in coordination with France because the U.S. believes immediate action is needed to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. And he said the Pentagon will be evaluating what other U.S. resources might be available if additional requests for assistance come in.
The transport flights are expected to begin in a day or two, according to a senior defense official who was not authorized to speak by name about the planning and thus requested anonymity. The official said there would be no other U.S. troops on the ground except any air crew needed for the flights into the Central African Republic.
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