France appeals to “international mobilization” in the terrorist fight in the Sahel

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech after the virtual summit of the G5 Sahel countries.

© Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech after the virtual summit of the G5 Sahel countries.

During the last day of the G5 summit for the Sahel, French President Emmanuel Macron said that he does not plan to reduce his military efforts in the West African region, but called for greater participation by the international community in the fight against the jihadist terrorism in the Sahel.

France plans to adjust its military presence in the Sahel region, French President Emmanuel Macron announced during the G5 summit that began on Monday and will conclude on Tuesday. Macron urged the leaders of the group’s countries – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger – to intensify their efforts in the fight against jihadist groups operating in that region of West Africa.

During the last day of the conference and through a video call, the leader of the French Executive asked to give more help to the G5 Sahel forces: “the first message is to underline that we must not loosen pressure on terrorist groups, strengthen our control in the three borders, especially with the Chadian battalion, but starting in the coming days and weeks, direct concrete operations in this area to regain control ”.

The central axis of the meeting, held in the Chadian capital, N’Djamena, was the fight against Islamist terrorist groups: Al Qaeda and its local affiliates, but during the event the six leaders of the sub-Saharan group also debated on the effects of the pandemic in Covid-19 in the region and joint efforts to boost their economies.

Chadian President Deby Itno, who assumes the group’s rotating presidency, asked for a minute of silence for the civilian and military victims killed by jihadist groups. Itno appealed for joint work to improve societies in the Sahel: “Sahel populations who live every day under the threat of war and terrorist attacks expect pragmatic actions from all of us to improve the security situation on the ground”, and He recalled that precariousness and poverty “feed the breeding ground for violent radicalism.”

Financial aid for the Sahel countries

In this way, the African leader stressed the importance of helping the Sahel countries economically to have additional resources in the fight against terrorism, highlighting the “cancellation of debt” as a priority for regional governments.

For its part, France, which has more than 5,000 soldiers deployed in five West African countries – its largest operation abroad – has no immediate plans to adjust its military presence in the region and any change will depend on other countries contributing troops Macron said.

Last year, Paris, increased the number of troops for the Operation Barkhane, in 600 to 5,100 military. A movement that had an apparent success after the death of the leader of the notorious Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, as well as a military leader of the group Supporting Islam and Muslims, affiliated with Al Qaeda.

Macron told reporters during a press conference that France’s military presence in the African Sahel region will not change for this summer, “although France will consider its presence in the area beyond the summer.”

France, a former colonial power in the region, is seeking a strategy to phase out its years-long military intervention against Islamists. A counterinsurgency operation that in recent years has caused the death of at least 55 French soldiers and billions of dollars from French coffers.

Call for foreign aid in the fight against Islamism

In this way, the French president urged the international community and European countries to participate in the military and financial force of counterterrorist operations in the Sahel: “we have launched a trust fund and have identified the need of 40 million euros per year for this force to be operational, to pay premiums and operation. Now we must continue to ask all our international partners to give visibility to our joint forces and secure long-term funding. “

A call that was quickly answered by Germany, saying that it will not send additional military missions to the region and thus rejecting the French requests: “Germany is participating with many troops in the two international missions in the Sahel, both in (the mission European training) EUTM as in (the UN mission) Minusma, “said French Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, adding that, at the moment, they have no intention of going further.

The latest meeting of the G5 leaders comes a year after France pushed its deployment to the Sahel in an attempt to regain control from the jihadists. However, despite military efforts and economic spending, extremist groups maintain control of vast tracts of territory and attacks against the military and civilian population are constant, leaving hundreds of human losses.

Germany refuses to deploy more troops on the ground

After the summit, Chad announced that it will deploy some 1,000 soldiers in the cross-border region of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali to reinforce the national armies. Over the past year, Chadian troops have been primarily engaged in fighting the Boko Haram insurgents and the jihadist group Islamic State in West Africa in the Lake Chad region.

This military deployment would allow French troops and other military forces to reorient their mission towards central Mali and attack Islamist leaders linked to Al Qaeda. Furthermore, African leaders want to reaffirm state control in areas previously dominated by the military and encourage economic development as another form of struggle against jihadists.

With AP, AFP and Reuters

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