WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Defense Department on Tuesday said the Air Force has provided French forces operating in Mali with aerial refueling support.
Department Press Secretary George Little made the announcement at a press briefing at the Pentagon, saying the U.S. side has begun refueling support for French air operations on Jan. 27.
Little said one refueling mission has been conducted so far, when a KC-135 Stratotanker provided about 33,000 pounds of fuel to French fighter aircraft. More refueling missions are expected to take place on Tuesday.
According to Little, as of Jan. 27, the U.S. Air Force had flown 17 C-17 sorties, moving more than 391 tons of equipment and supplies and nearly 500 French personnel.
Following a phone call between Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his French counterpart, the United States also has agreed to provide airlift to countries in the region, including Chad and Togo, Little said.
On Jan. 11, Paris confirmed its military operations in Mali to back the government forces in fighting the rebels, who briefly seized the central town of Konna and threatened the southern part of Mali, including capital Bamako.