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A French soldier stands guard near Markala, on January 18, 2013.... News Photo2012-2013 Northern Mali Conflict,Army Soldier,Conflict,French Culture,Horizontal,Mali,StandingPhotographer Collection: AFP 2013 AFPA French soldier stands guard near Markala, on January 18, 2013. France now has 1,800 troops on the ground in Mali, inching closer to the goal of 2,500 it plans to deploy in its African former colony, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said today. That was 400 more than a day earlier, said the minister as he met with French special forces in the western port of Lorient. The troops have been sent to help the Malian army regain control of the north from Islamist groups. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)