Anti-jihadi African force gets US$130m
LA CELLE-SAINT-CLOUD (AP):
A new African military force to counter growing extremism in the Sahel region should see victories "in the first half of 2018," France's president said yesterday after hosting a summit to boost support for the five-nation effort.
President Emmanuel Macron announced new pledges for the force known as the G5 Sahel, one from Saudi Arabia of US$100 million and another of US$30 million from the United Arab Emirates, in a bid to speed up the full deployment of the military effort by Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mauritania.
Nearly five years after France intervened to rout Islamist extremists in northern Mali, then controlled by an al-Qaida affiliate, the threat has spread to neighbouring countries in the volatile Sahel, the sprawling, largely barren zone south of the Sahara desert. The growing extremism has also spawned new jihadi groups, including one claiming affiliation with the Islamic State group.
In recent months, local security forces and the 12,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali have been prime targets. Attacks often occur in the border regions of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, where four US soldiers were killed earlier this year.
Besides the leaders of the five-nation force, delegations representing Europe, the African Union, and international organisations were in attendance yesterday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the urgency of making the force fully operational.
"Islamic extremism is propagating. We can't wait," she said.
The G5 force is expected to grow into a 5,000-strong army by March but needs soldiers, training, operational autonomy, and funding. Macron said that he sees it at full strength as planned.