The UN Security Council unanimously welcomed in a resolution the deployment of a military force by West African states to combat terrorism and arms, drug and human trafficking in the Sahel region after France and the US reached a consensus on the issue.
To secure the support of the US, France softened the resolution language by omitting provisions relating notably to the funding of the special counterterrorism force of 5000 troops.
Prior to the adoption of the resolution, the US opposed UN authorization for the force, arguing that it was not legally necessary and that the mandate was too broad and lacking in precision.
Keen to reduce its funding for UN peacekeeping missions, the US maintained that a UN authorization was not needed because the force is already approved by the countries where it would deploy as is the case with the joint task force in Lake Chad Basin.
Presidents of five Sahel countries — Niger, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania — agreed in February to set up a joint force. Initially, it is expected to comprise up to 5,000 military, civilian and police personnel, with headquarters in Mali.
The surge of terrorist and criminal activities has prompted the European Union to promise a €50 million support, with diplomacy chief Federica Mogherini citing stability of the Sahel region as “crucial not only for Africa but also for Europe.”
In recent years, the Sahel has become a breeding ground for several terrorist groups taking advantage of vast swathes of deserts and porous borders to engage in various terrorist, trafficking and criminal activities.
Radicalization and human trafficking are major threats in the impoverished region, where Al Qaeda and associated groups have a significant presence, while the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) also appears to be staking a claim in the volatile region.