The West African Sahel region will get double the funding for its multi-national military operation from the European Union to counter the growing threat of Islamist insurgencies which is part of a broader effort to stop the flow of migrants and jihadists according to a top European diplomat.
The rise of jihadist insurgencies allied to al-Qaeda in the region has given a bigger priority to the European and U.S. military strategists as they seek to counter their influence in the poor West African landscape.
At a donor conference of about 50 countries including the United States, Japan and Norway, former colonial power France looked set to win enough backing to allow the new regional force to be fully operational later this year.
“This is not about charity, this is a partnership,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters, promising a doubling of EU funding to 100 million euros for the G5 Sahel force, made up of troops from Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania.
France, which has more than 4,000 troops in the region, hopes to reach at least 300 million euros in military aid on Friday to overcome financing problems for the force that was first proposed in 2014, while militants have scored military victories in West Africa.
So far, the United States has pledged 60 million euros to support it. Another 100 million euros has been pledged by Saudi Arabia, 30 million from the United Arab Emirates and 40 million on a bilateral basis by EU member states, separate from the EU.
The G5 Sahel operation, whose command base is in central Mali, is to swell to 5,000 personnel from seven battalions and will also engage in humanitarian and development work.
French President Emmanuel Macron will call for more to be done to support a separate EU train-and-advise mission in Mali, an EU diplomat said, and is seeking 50 more EU troops after Belgian soldiers ended their tour in the mission.
The French have been frustrated by the lack of any other European Union combat troops on the ground other than themselves. The French were instrumental in Mali in pushing Islamist jihadists and Tuaregs out of the northern reaches of the country in 2012.
Others have sent military trainers to the region, where the training of the host nation’s forces eventually leads to an exit strategy for the European troops.
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