MS Risk Blog

West Africa Seeking Funds for Anti-Islamist Force

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According to Mali’s military chief, countries in West Africa’s Sahel Region are requesting 50 million euros (US $56 million) from the European Union (EU) in order to help set up a multinational force to take on Islamist militant groups that threaten the region. In recent years, the vast, arid zone has developed into a breeding ground for jihadist group, with some linked to al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State (IS) group. European countries, particularly France, are increasingly becoming concerned that these groups could directly threaten the European continent if left unchecked.

Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – the so-called G5 Sahel countries – have proposed a regional task force designed to tackle the cross-border threat. Implementation of this plan however has lagged, partly due to funding issues. This month, Malian General Didier Dacko disclosed that “the council of ministers of the G5 Sahel countries is making a request to the European Union to financially support the deployment and functioning of the G5 Sahel Joint Force. The Malian military chief made the comments during a meeting in Mali’s capital Bamako between G5 Sahel military chiefs, EU diplomats and offices from France’s regional anti-militant force, Operation Barkhane.

Last year, the group proposed establishing special units, each composed of around 100 well-trained soldiers, capable of responding quickly to shifting threats, which would be deployed in areas where jihadist groups are known to operate. They would complement the efforts of regular armed forces, United Nations peacekeepers operation in Mali and Operation Barkhane, which has around 4,000 French troops who are deployed across the five Sahel countries.

In 2013, France spearheaded a military intervention, which successfully drove back militants who had seized Mali’s desert north a year earlier. Militants however continue to attack local security forces, UN peacekeepers and civilians targets across the region. Newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron, who visited Mali on his first trip outside of Europe last month, has reaffirmed Paris’ commitment to the region and has called on Germany and other European countries to increase military and development aid.