BAMAKO, Mali — The European Union has pledged to give $56 million (50 million euros) in support of the G5 Sahel Joint Force in their fight against extremist groups, European Commission Vice President Federica Mogherini announced during an EU-G5 Sahel meeting this week in Bamako.
The Joint Force will comprise troop participation from all G5 countries — Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad — and will operate in each country, with a specialized focused on securing border areas and thus allowing the region to develop economically.
“The stability and development of the Sahel region are crucial, not only for Africa but also for Europe,” Mogherini said during the ministerial meeting. “We need to unite our forces to tackle terrorism and all forms of trafficking, including human trafficking, and to improve the management of our borders.”
In recent years, the vast, arid Sahel region has become a breeding ground for violent radical groups, some with ties to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. European leaders fear that these militants could pose a great danger to their neighboring continent without intervention.
“We are neighbors, and whatever happens on one of our continents has a knock-on effect on the other,” Mogherini explained. Guaranteeing the security of the region is also a prerequisite for development and parallel efforts to support job creation, training and improve the health of local populations, she said.
Last month, newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron echoed Mogherini during his trip to Mali, his first visit outside of Europe where he met with French special forces, known as Operation Barkhane. He reaffirmed France’s commitment to the region and called on Germany and other European nations to ramp up military and development support.
Militants in Mali’s northern region have been mostly pushed out since the French spearheaded a military intervention against them in 2013. However, there are still sporadic assaults on peacekeepers, local security forces and civilians across the north and, recently, in central regions.
Spillover attacks in Burkina Faso and Niger are also causing alarm.
The G5 Sahel Joint Force is expected to have its headquarters in Mali and will operate separately but complementarily to the present U.N. peacekeeping force, MINUSMA (or the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) and Barkhane forces already present there.
Mali Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop added during the ministers’ meeting that the joint force is expected to include upwards of 10,000 soldiers and police and will be operational by year’s end.
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