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EU-backed 'G5 Sahel' security mission starts operations as Europeans hope to stem migration flows
3.11.17
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A multinational counter-terrorism force in the Sahel region of Africa is receiving significant financial backing from the EU and recently began operations in an attempt to "counter escalating Islamist insurgencies," with a view to also deal with irregular migration and human trafficking in the region.

See: G5 Sahel launches military operation in African scrublands (Reuters, link):

"A long-awaited multi-national military force in Africa’s Sahel region has begun operations to counter escalating Islamist insurgencies, participants in the joint effort said on Thursday.

The G5 Sahel force, backed by France and the United States, launched its campaign on Oct. 28 amid growing unrest in the desert reaches of the Sahel, where jihadists such as al Qaeda and Islamic State-affiliated groups roam undetected, often across long, porous borders.

(...)

G5 Sahel is made up of troops from Mali, Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania that will police the region in collaboration with 4,000 French troops deployed there since intervening in 2013 to beat back an insurgency in northern Mali."

The EU is offering significant financial and other support. According to a report in The Guardian (link):

"The force commanders claim they need €423m in its first year, but so far only €108m has been raised, almost half from the EU. The British say they support the force in principle, but have offered no funds as yet."

A paper produced by the European External Action Service in July shows some of the EU's actions and thinking on the issue: Options paper for CSDP support to the G5 Sahel Joint Force (11562/17, 28 July 2017, pdf):

"The aim of this paper is to present the concept of G5 Sahel Force Joint Force, its potential role in the regional security framework as well as to propose options for enhanced support through the CSDP missions in the region (EUTM Mali, EUCAP SAHEL Mali and EUCAP Sahel Niger) and provide recommendations on the possible way forward."

There is little mention of the issue in the EEAS paper above but as The Guardian notes:

"European powers have a particular interest in changing the dynamic in north Africa, because record levels of migration have overwhelmed southern Europe, divided the EU and polarised politics."

See also: The European Union and the Sahel, fact sheet (EEAS, link):

"The EU is increasingly engaging with the 'G5 Sahel', formally created in December 2014.

...Discussions showed a converging analysis of the challenges faced by the region, ranging from security threats and organised crime to irregular migration, the humanitarian situation and the consequences of climate change. Sahel ministers strongly welcomed EU engagement, and the EU Regional Action Plan for the Sahel was seen as highly relevant and as a useful reference for further cooperation."

Background: France seeks UN funding to fight terror, smuggling in Africa's Sahel (France 24, link)

"France is facing a tough diplomatic battle to convince the United States to lend UN support to a counter-terrorism force for Africa's Sahel region, where insurgents have killed UN peacekeepers and US soldiers.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will lead a UN Security Council meeting on Monday that will look at ways of shoring up the G5 Sahel force set up by Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

France wants donors to step up, but is also looking to the United Nations to offer logistic and financial support to the joint force -- which is set to begin operations in the coming days.

The United States however is adamant that while it is ready to provide bilateral funding, there should be no UN support for the force. "

UN: Report of the Secretary-General on the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel (pdf)

And see: G5 Sahel counterterrorism force explained (Al Jazeera, link)

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