Friday, June 09, 2017

The French in Africa

France on Tuesday asked the UN Security Council to authorize the deployment of a five-nation African military force to "use all necessary means" to "combat terrorism, drug trafficking and trafficking in persons." Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger -- which make up the G5 -- agreed in March to set up the special counter-terrorism operation of 5,000 troops for West Africa.  France has its own 4,000-strong military presence in the region. The force will have its headquarters in Mali, but will be under a separate command from the 12,000-strong UN peacekeeping force MINUSMA, which has been deployed in the country since 2013.

The United States is wary of a French push for the U.N. Security Council to authorize a West African force to combat terrorism and trafficking in the Sahel region because it does not believe it is warranted and does not want the world body to help fund it, diplomats said. The official said U.N. authorization was not needed because the force already had the approval of the countries where it would deploy, likening it to a joint task force in the Lake Chad Basin fighting Boko Haram, which has council political support but no official authorization. "Further, we find the mandate of the force way too broad, lacking precision; and would set a dangerous precedent by providing authorization for lethal force for a broad spectrum of activities including operations to 'eradicate' undefined criminal networks," the official said.

France launched the Serval Operation in 2013 to oust Jihadists affiliated to Al Qaeda from Northern Malian cities. The operation ended on 15 July 2014, and was replaced by Operation Barkhane, launched on 1 August 2014 to fight Islamist fighters in the Sahel.

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