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G5-Sahel

Five African countries launched a new multinational military force on 02 July 2017 to tackle Islamist militants in the Sahel, which French President Emmanuel Macron said should be fully operational by autumn 2017 despite its current financing shortfall. The new regional anti-terror force is set to include as many as 5,000 soldiers, with one battalion from each of the so-called G5 Sahel countries: Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.

The G5 Sahel is to be based in central Mali to bolster the United Nation's 12,000-strong peacekeeping force and France's own 4,000-member Operation Barkhane force. 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.

Chad, Burkina Faso and Niger had already deployed around 4,100 soldiers within MINUSMA. Niger and Chad also contribute troops to a similar regional force fighting Nigerias Boko Haram militants. President Idriss Deby of Chad, which possesses the regions most capable military, has voiced reluctance to further commit his forces unless they receive more international support.

Macron pledged combat support and money for the West African force. Regional leaders admitted full funding has not yet been fully secured. "Our challenge is to get the command up and running, not just on the financing but also on operations," Macron said on 02 July 2017. "I hope its a matter of weeks, because we need rapid results to be credible." France is to offer "advice, material and combat," Macron said. Macron praised the initiative as "a dynamic, a groundswell which France is proud to back." He added, "it will be up to you and your armed forces to demonstrate that the G5 can be effective, while respecting humanitarian conventions. The results have to be there to convince your partners."

Islamist militant groups, some with links to al Qaeda, seized control of Malis 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 U.N. peacekeepers, Malian soldiers and civilian targets in violence that has spilled across Malis borders.

During the meeting, leaders of the G5 Sahel countries formally established the new force, which will operate in coordination with French troops and MINUSMA, Malis struggling U.N. peacekeeping mission. The countries of the G5 Sahel bloc began floating the idea of a regional force as early as 2015, but since taking office in May, Macron has thrown Pariss weight behind the plan, including through a U.N. resolution.

Macron said the force, which is expected to consist of around 5,000 troops, needed to be fully operational by autumn 2017. But he played down speculation that he was seeking to reduce the burden on Frances cross-border Barkhane Operation, saying at a meeting with Malis French community following the summit that Paris would remain engaged for as long as it takes.

With its military headquarters in the northern Mali town of Sevare, the G5 Sahel force will focus on border zones - one along the frontier between Niger and Mali, another between Mali and Mauritania, and a third straddling the borders between Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali. Paris considers the Sahel a breeding ground for militants and traffickers who pose a threat to Europe.

The European Union has pledged around 50 million euros ($57 million), and Macron said France would contribute around 8 million euros in equipment by the end of 2017. Each of the G5 Sahel members will contribute 10 million euros for the force. But President Keita on Sunday said the G5 leaders had agreed on a total budget of 423 million euros.

Serge Michailof, a researcher at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS), criticized the EU contribution as "a joke" given what he called the bloc's "very deep pockets" and the poverty of the Sahel countries. "This force is going to cost $300-400 million (262-350 million euros) at the very least," he said. Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop put the figure at $450 million.

Al Jazeera's Mohamed Vall, reporting from Bamako, said 03 July 2017 financing remained the crucial issue for the operations across the Sahel. "There are troops here and they've been trying to solve the problem of insecurity in the region, but they haven't been successful because the funding is at the heart of this situation," he said, adding that lack of money could cause the new initiative to fail. "The United Nations is struggling now with the approach of the US that the UN should reduce its security budget around the world," Vall said. "That US approach is touching this region."

Analysts said internal conflicts within Mali are complicating the fight against the armed groups. "What we see is a big focus on military, on equipment, on institutions that they are going to establish," Marie Roger Biloa, editor of the Paris-based Africa International, told Al Jazeera 03 July 2017. She said, however, that so far it has proved difficult to bring troops from different countries to effectively work together, and called for increased political efforts to address Mali's "very complicated" situation. "The problem is that France wants to fight terror - because terrorism is striking on French soil but also abroad - but they fail to realise or to take into consideration that Mali, which is the heart of the problem, is having internal problems to solve," she said. "If you want to be efficient you also have to address that issue."

Phase 2 would envisage the deployment of a full-fledged force operating throughout the Sahel to neutralize terrorist armed groups and criminal organizations. However, by 2017 the strategic concept of operations did not provide details on the scale and scope, the command and control structure or the prerogatives of such a force. The timing for the transition to phase 2 has also not been specified.

Discussions with interlocutors in the capitals of the States members of G-5 Sahel revealed that conceptions of phase 2 varied significantly by country. Notably, Chad and the Niger advocated a phased approach whereby phase 2 would not begin until phase 1 had been completed, borders secured and a State presence, in particular through the return of security forces, restored. Officials in Chad also noted that the Joint Force was often perceived as an additional effort being made to respond to the Malian crisis. They highlighted the seriousness of threats facing Chad and its neighbours that were entirely disconnected from Mali and stressed the need to address those threats simultaneously.

For officials of Burkina Faso and Mali, the launch of phase 1 did not preclude planning for phase 2. Meanwhile, interlocutors in Mauritania advocated making phases 1 and 2 operational concurrently, expressing reservations with regard to rendering the Joint Force further operational under phase 1, pending the adoption of a more solid mandate under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations and the provision of adequate financial and other means. Officials of the Niger echoed those sentiments and called upon the international community to step up its support for the Joint Force.

Interlocutors in all five countries noted that the strategic concept of operations was a living document that would be subject to further revision to reflect ongoing discussions on the end-state of the Joint Force and the means to attain it, as well as the gradual establishment of a regional force.

The States members of G-5 Sahel developed a 423 million budget estimate for establishing the Joint Force and rendering it operational, including its first year of operations. As of mid-2017, only a few partners had come forward, and only one quarter of the budget had been funded. Given its size and the high potential future costs associated with eventually making a full-fledged anti-terrorism force operational, mobilizing sustainable and consistent financial support over several years will remain a significant challenge. The lack of an overarching institutional framework also presents challenges with regard to the Joint Forces capacity to channel and disburse donor contributions.

Oil-rich Gulf countries pledged 130 million euros 13 December 2017 towards fighting jihadists in West Africas Sahel region, as French President Emmanuel Macron hosted leaders in a bid to boost a fledgling five-nation military force. The G5 Sahel force brings together troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger some of the poorest countries in the world and money had been a major obstacle to getting it off the ground. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir promised 100 million euros ($118 million) at the talks while the United Arab Emirates offered 30 million euros, as both seek to show commitment to fighting extremism. The EU had pledged 50 million euros to fund the force and France another eight million, while each of the African countries is putting forward 10 million euros.

French President Emmanuel Macron said 22 December 2019 that the fight against jihadism in the Sahel was at a turning point, calling on the five countries in this African region to redefine more clearly the objectives. Macron was speaking in Nigers capital city Niamey, where he was paying his respects at the graves of 71 Nigerien soldiers killed in December. The coming weeks are absolutely decisive for our fight against terrorism. We are at a turning point in this war. We must (...) redefine the objectives more clearly at the summit in Pau (south-west France) on January 13,said Macron, standing beside his Nigerien counterpart Mahamadou Issoufou. Military, political and development objectives for the next 6, 12 and 18 months must be defined much more clearly, said Macron.




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Page last modified: 26-12-2019 18:25:06 ZULU