Mauritania calls for more funding for anti-jihadist force
Mauritania on Monday called for more support to roll out an anti-jihadist force in Africa's Sahel region where the deployment of 5,000 troops has been delayed by a lack of financing.
The new joint force being set up by five countries of the Sahel region -- Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger -- has an annual budget of about $496 million (422 million euros) a year, but only about $127 million has been pledged so far.
Khadijetou Mbareck Fall, a Mauritanian junior foreign minister, told a Mediterranean nations conference that the international community has "endorsed the fundamental mission of the force" and should back it up with better financial support.
The force's funding will be discussed by donors at a Brussels conference in December, though France and the European Union have already pledged aid.
Equipment is needed for the force's five battalions, along with communications systems linking them to headquarters in Mali and an emergency medical evacuation unit.
Plans call for deploying the first units in October and for the battalions to be operational by March, with priority placed on cross-border military operations.
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita officially opened the force's headquarters on September 9 in Sevare, central Mali, though the troops drawn from all five nations are still in training.
France already operates a cross-Sahel counter-terror force and the UN has a peacekeeping mission stationed in Mali to contain the jihadist threat largely posed by Al-Qaeda-linked groups.