France and Sahel partners boost counter-terrorism fight
January 17, 2020 - France is stepping up its military effort in the Sahel, pledging extra troops and calling on the United States to maintain its support, amid a surge in violence linked to Islamist militant groups.
French President Emmanuel Macron met leaders of the so-called G5 Sahel force on Monday and they vowed to boost their military efforts under a joint command in the Sahel, and to focus their counter-insurgency efforts against the so-called Islamic State militant group.
They also urged the United States to maintain its key support in the fight against Islamic extremism. The U.S. provides intelligence, logistical and drone support for the French forces, but there have been mixed signals from Washington that it could pull out. Reuters said.
France, the former colonial power, has 4,500 troops in the sprawling, semi-arid Sahel, but security has been progressively worsening.
Militants linked to Al Qaeda and so-called Islamic State have strengthened their foothold in the region, making large swathes of territory ungovernable and stoking ethnic violence, especially in Mali and Burkina Faso.
The UN envoy for West Africa and the Sahel, Mohamed Ibn Chambas, last week said that terrorist attacks have increased five-fold in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger since 2016, with over 4,000 deaths reported in 2019 compared with an estimated 770 deaths in 2016.
- Amid fears U.S. will pull troops from Africa, French minister heads to Washington (Reuters)
- Sahel Coalition: G5 and France agree new joint command (The Defense Post)
- Operation Barkhane (French defence ministry)
- Instability in the G5 Sahel (Stratfor)
- U.S. to ramp up counterterrorism efforts in Sahel region (Foreign Policy)
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