African anti-jihadist force to operate on periphery of Arab world

2017/12/17 Issue: 136 Page: 5

The Arab Weekly
Lamine Ghanmi

Tunis- The G5 Sahel force, which has carried out only one test operation in Novem­ber, involves approxi­mately 5,000 soldiers from Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Chad and Mauritania.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly told RFI radio that the force needed nearly $300 million for its launch and another $470 million down the road.

The European Union has pledged approximately $59 million towards funding the force and France anoth­er $9 million. Each of the five African countries, among the poorest in the world, is contributing $11 million.

French President Emmanuel Macron visited Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in recent weeks and has pressed the United States for help. Washington has promised to provide $60 million for the G5 countries.

The Sahel region, which is the size of Europe, is crucial for the stability of Arab countries in North Africa, which are already concerned about potential repercussions of the con­flict in Libya that has been raging since the downfall of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.

Another source of concern for the French-led African coalition is the risk of jihadists returning from the Middle East.

“Intelligence reports have the number of African jihadists who joined the Islamic State terrorist group in the Middle East at 6,000,” African Union Peace and Security Commissioner Smail Chergui said at an African security conference on December 12.

“The return of these jihadists represents serious threats to the se­curity and stability of African states and requires special attention and intensive cooperation.”

It is also feared that jihadists in the Sahel could provide support to extremist groups in the Horn of Africa, such as Somalia-based al-Shabab.

Lamine Ghanmi is a veteran Reuters journalist. He has covered North Africa for decades and is based in Tunis.

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