Africa’s Sahel region has become a hot spot for violent extremism, but the joint force set up in 2014 to combat groups linked to the Islamic State, al-Qaida and others has failed to stop their inroads, and a senior U.N. official warned Tuesday that without greater international support and regional cooperation the instability will expand toward West African coastal countries.
“Resolute advances in the fight against terrorism, violent extremism and organized crime in the Sahel desperately need to be made,” U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Africa Martha Pobee told a U.N. Security Council meeting.
The counterterrorism force, now comprised of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania and Niger, lost Mali a year ago when its ruling junta decided to pull out. Pobee said the force hasn’t conducted any major military operations since January.
She said the force is adjusting to new realities: France moving its counterterrorism force from Mali to Niger due to tensions with the junta and Mali’s decision to allow Russian mercenaries from Wagner to deploy on its territory.
She said Burkina Faso and Niger have recently strengthened military cooperation with Mali to counter an upsurge in extremist attacks, but “despite these efforts, insecurity in the tri-border area continues to grow.”
Pobee criticized the international community, saying a lack of consensus among donors and partners left the joint force without sufficient funding and other needed support to become fully operational and autonomous so it could have “the capacity to help stabilize the Sahel region.”
An agreement between the U.N., EU and the force under which the U.N. peacekeeping force in Mali supplied fuel, rations, medical evacuation and engineering support to the joint force is expected to end in June, she said, expressing hope that the Security Council will consider the issue of U.N. financing for African peace operations.
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