U.S. pledges up to $60 million for security help in Sahel region
UNITED NATIONS/ABIDJAN (Reuters) - The United States has promised up to $60 million to support the Group of Five Sahel States (G5 Sahel) Joint Force’s counter-terrorism efforts, the State Department said on Monday.
The force - which will eventually comprise nearly 5,000 troops units from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania - is meant to counter a growing jihadist threat in West Africa’s arid Sahel region that includes groups linked to Al Qaeda and Islamic State.
It is due to begin joint patrols along the borders between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso in the coming days.
An ambush by unidentified militants earlier this month in Niger killed four U.S. Special Forces troops and threw a spotlight on American involvement in counter-terrorism operations in the region.
The pledge, which must now be discussed with Congress, will bolster the U.S.’s regional partners in their fight against Islamic State and other terrorist networks, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in the statement.
“This is a fight we must win, and these funds will play a key role in achieving that mission,” Tillerson said.
The G5 countries have set a first-year operating budget of 423 million euros ($491.74 million), only a quarter of which was committed prior to the U.S. announcement.
Washington is wary of funding the G5 through the United Nations, as its main backer France has advocated, at a time when the Trump administration is aiming to cut U.N. expenditures on peacekeeping operations around the world, and has indicated it prefers to support the force on a bilateral basis.