African and European leaders called for intensifying the fight against terrorism in the Sahel during a meeting Wednesday outside Paris, as the recently created G5 Sahel force received fresh funding pledges.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced Saudi Arabia was contributing $100 million, and the United Arab Emirates another $30 million to the G5 Sahel force. The United States and European Union have already announced contributions of roughly $60 million each.
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Macron said France’s 4,000-strong Barkhane operation in the Sahel will work with the G5 soldiers next year to combat jihadist groups in the region, such as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. He predicted victories against the groups early in the year.
Wednesday’s meeting west of Paris aimed to inject fresh support for the G5, launched last July to tackle rising terrorism across the vast expanse of Africa’s Sahel region.
Five African nations are contributing to the force, which is expected to grow to 5,000 troops by next March. But experts say it needs more soldiers, training and funding among other things to tackle the spreading jihadi threat.
Leaders also talked about other challenges.
Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita warned Wednesday that with their routing in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, Islamic State group fighters could end up in the Sahel.
Beyond French troops, other Western forces and U.N. peacekeepers are also present in the Sahel. A number have been killed in recent weeks. That includes four U.S. soldiers who were ambushed in October in a remote part of Niger, along with four Nigerien soldiers.
U.N. and other African troops have also been targeted. This year also saw terrorist attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso.