S Arabia, UAE pledge $130m for Sahel anti-terror force

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates put forward $130m on Wednesday towards fighting jihadists in West Africa’s Sahel region, as France’s Emmanuel Macron hosted leaders to an effort to boost a fledgling five-nation military force.
The 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.
The $100m from oil-rich Riyadh and $30m from the UAE bring the total pledged funding over the initial 250 million euros needed in the short term, a relief for Macron who had lobbied the Gulf and US for cash.
“We must win the war against terrorism in the Sahel-Sahara region,” Macron told reporters after meeting with the five countries’ presidents and other leaders including Germany’s Angela Merkel.
“There are attacks every day. There are states which are currently in jeopardy,” he said after the meeting at a chateau outside Paris. Former colonial power France has been 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.
Two years in the planning, the G5 Sahel force is set to cover a desert region the size of Europe.
The idea is for the five 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.
The talks, which also gathered the prime ministers of Italy and Belgium and officials from the European Union and African Union, come in a busy week of diplomacy for Macron after a climate summit on Tuesday.

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