Fresh from yesterday’s One Planet climate change summit yesterday France’s Emmanuel Macron moved right on to another today — a summit in Paris on accelerating efforts to set up a West African force to battle Islamist militants.
France, which itself has some 4,000 troops in the region, is worried that the militants have scored victories in West Africa while the so-called G5 force made of up of the region’s armies has struggled to win financing and become operational.
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Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were also at the talks today — a sign Gulf Arab states are upping their influence in the region.
The Saudis pledged $100m, whilst the UAE is funding a G5 so-called war school in Mauritania, set to open in January.
Both pledges represent significant boosts for the force. Jalel Harchaoui, a geopolitics researcher in Paris told Aljazeera:
Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia are interested in the Sahel. Getting a seat at the table, being seen as security stakeholders, is something that fits in their respective strategy. Both have ambitions in large chunks of Africa.
Meanwhile, representatives from the US, the European Union, Saudi Arabia and the UAE met with leaders of the G5: Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger, in hopes of accelerating efforts to establish the G5 Sahel force as Macron fears Islamist militants have made recent victories in areas of West Africa.
The G5 Sahel Force was created in February 2014 and is a major African initiative supported by the United Nations, which aims to improve coordination between countries.
According to the UN, “the mandate of the G5 Sahel is to combat terrorism, transnational organized crime and human trafficking in the G5 Sahel area”.
Despite the 4,000 troops operating in the G5 region, there has been an increase in organised crime, fuelling fears that terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda are winning.
Last month, eight US and Nigerian troops were killed during an attack in Niger, leading to further involvement from the US.
The G5 Sahel hopes to address challenges with a “political, military, and development response” however the force has struggled with insufficient financing.
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French Diplomatie reported:
France is seeking to strengthen international support for this exemplary initiative because it reflects the willingness of African nations to assume responsibility for their own security.
To boost funding, the EU has pledged €50m under the African Peace Facility, with the French individually giving €8m. Each of the five states in the force will contribute an additional €10m each.
The G5 Sahel Force will eventually consist of 5,000 soldiers from seven battalions.
Macron hopes full implementation of the G5 force will serve as “a long-term exit strategy for his own forces that intervened in 2013 to beat back rebels in northern Mali”.