Africa, Europe discuss Sahel anti-terror force

France’s Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday hosted African and European leaders to drum up support and contributions for a new counter-terrorism force in the terror-plagued Sahel.
Two years in the planning, the force brings together troops from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger in a desert region the size of Europe.
The five nations are among the world’s poorest, and funding was high on the agenda as their presidents joined Macron and other leaders including Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel at a chateau in Celle-Saint-Cloud outside Paris.
Officials from oil-rich Saudi Arabia – which may confirm a $100m contribution, according to the French presidency – were also notably on the guest list.
Former colonial power France is leading regional counterterrorism efforts through its 4 000-strong Barkhane force, but is keen to spread the burden as its military is engaged on various fronts.
The idea is for the Sahel nations to develop their capacity to defend themselves through the new force, but their militaries are poorly equipped and need training in the new role.
Macron – who has had a busy week of diplomacy after a climate summit on Tuesday – pushed US President Donald Trump for support when they met in July, and Washington has promised $60m in aid for the countries.
“It’s an initiative that’s getting more powerful, but speed is a problem,” French Defence Minister Florence Parly told RFI radio.
“We have to go faster,” she said. “The objective is to be able to move forward faster on financing and the military structure.”
US officials were attending Wednesday’s talks along with the prime ministers of Italy and Belgium and representatives of the United Arab Emirates, European Union and African Union.

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