African powers launched a new multinational military force to tackle Islamist militants in the Sahel on Sunday, which French President Emmanuel Macron told a regional summit should be fully operational by the autumn despite its current budget shortfall.
Some observers see the initiative of the G5 Sahel bloc – Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad – as forming the basis of an eventual exit strategy for around 4,000 French troops now deployed to the volatile region. But Macron said Paris had no plans to withdraw them.
Islamist militant groups, some with links to al Qaeda, seized control of Mali’s desert north in 2012.
Though they were driven back a year later by a French-led military intervention, they continue to carry out attacks against on U.N. peacekeepers, Malian soldiers and civilian targets in violence that has spilled across Mali’s borders.
“Every day we must combat terrorists, thugs, murderers, whose names and faces we must forget, but whom we must steadfastly and with determination eradicate together,” Macron said at the summit in Mali’s capital Bamako.
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