Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced on Monday that the United States has pledged $60 million dollars to support the counterterrorism initiative by allies in Africa’s Sahel region.
Tillerson said the US will support the Group of Five Sahel Joint Task Force, a military headquarters that will encompass up to 5,000 troops set up by Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger earlier this year.
“Defeating terrorism depends on making sure terrorist organizations cannot have safe havens on any continent,” Tillerson said. “This money will bolster our regional partners in their fight to ensure security and stability in the face of ISIS and affiliated groups and other terrorist networks.”
At a U.N. Security Council meeting about the Sahel Joint Task Force Monday, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley made clear that the funding would be on a bilateral basis, subject to congressional approval, and not given through the United Nations, which is trying to establish sustained funding and assistance to the force.
“We believe that the G5 force must be, first and foremost, owned by the countries of the region themselves,” Haley said, referring to the group of five African nations. “We also have serious and well-known reservations about using U.N. resources to support non-U.N. activities,” she added.
In the coming weeks, the Security Council will discuss four options for U.N. support to the force to make its work fully operational. They range from expanding the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali – known as MINUSMA – to establishing a dedicated U.N. support office to deliver logistics and other soft support on a limited scope.
Mali’s foreign minister Abdoulaye Diop welcomed the news but said that other countries can do more in helping Mali and the other countries fighting terrorism. He said the financially strapped country is spending 70 percent of its GDP to combatting terror, and multi-national criminal networks while trying to improve its infrastructure.
Among the terror networks active in the five-country Sahel region are the Islamic State, several al-Qaida-linked groups operate in the area, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Nigeria-based Boko Haram.
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