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New ‘Army’ to Combat Terrorism in Sahel and Sahara

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Asharq Al-Awsat - English

by Khalid Yaymout

Rabat – The Sahel and Sahara is one of the international geopolitical regions that is witnessing a bitter conflict between terrorist groups, on the one hand, and regional countries backed by major world powers, on the other. It appears that each side is aware of the important geopolitical location of the area, which is a crossing point between southern Sahara with the north and the Mediterranean with Europe. This therefore makes the region in a constant state of war due to the conflicting interests of international powers and terrorist groups.

The recent summit of leaders of Sahel and Sahara that was concluded in Mali a few days ago paved the way for a new phase of confrontation between international powers and terror groups. Held under the theme of fighting terrorism for ensuring security and development, the summit was preceded by a meeting of defense ministers from each of Burkina Faso, Niger, Mauritania, Mali, Chad and Morocco on May 4.

Along with the recent summit, the meeting will effectively signify a transition between security cooperation towards military one.

The gatherers at the summit, held in the Malian capital Bamako on July 2, saw the participation of the leaders of Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, as well as French President Emmanuel Macron. They agreed to form a joint regional force to combat terrorist groups in the region. This “army” of some 5,000 soldiers will begin its work before the end of the year. It will receive funding of some 423 million euros, 8 million of which will be presented by France.

Why the alliance now?

It appears that the alliance was made after a series of important developments in Sahel and Sahara. The first of which bolstered the terrorist groups, whereby the most important of these groups merged in one, forming the “Jamaat Ansar al-Islam and al-Muslimeen” headed by Iyad Ag Ghali. The group once again pledged its allegiance to the al-Qaeda terrorist group.

Since the merge, it has carried out several terrorist attacks and kidnappings. These developments have emboldened terrorist groups that have since expanded their area of operation, therefore posing a real challenge to the countries of Sahel.

Read more: https://english.aawsat.com/khalid-yaymout/features/new-army-combat-terrorism-sahel-sahara