The United States has just appointed Peter Pham as its new special envoy for the Sahel region.
Peter Pham who was in charge of the Great Lakes region took up his new duties in the Sahel just a week ago.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s spokesperson, Morgan Ortagus, announced the appointment on Twitter saying: “@SecPompeo is pleased to appoint @DrJPPham as the first-ever US Special Envoy for the Sahel Region of Africa to maximize US diplomatic efforts in support of security and stability in the Sahel”.
It is a new post specially created to combat the increasing violence linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State organization in the Sahel region, as Washington deems the situation in the Sahel region increasingly critical.
Over the past year, militants have stepped up attacks in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.
The Senate Foreign Affairs Committee welcomed the appointment as it comes, it said, “at a crucial time for our partners in the region.”
The creation of the new position, filled by Peter Pham, is sending mixed messages about Washington’s policy on the continent. While the Pentagon plans to withdraw US troops from the region, as part of a global troop review meant to free up more resources to address challenges from China’s military, after nearly two decades of prioritizing counterterrorism operations around the world, Mike Pompeo had affirmed, during a recent African tour, the commitment of the United States to participate in maintaining security on the continent.
In November, he warned there was growing concern over Islamic State in West Africa and called on the global coalition against Islamic State to focus on the Sahel.
A possible US troop cuts is particularly worrying for Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger where the security situation is rather deteriorating, and also for Europeans, mainly France, which relies on US intelligence and logistics for its 4,500-strong mission in the Sahel.
The US currently has around 6,000 military personnel in Africa.
Peter Pham said after his appointment that he was looking forward to working with regional and international partners on the security and humanitarian challenges in the Sahel.
Since he was named in November 2018 US special envoy for the Great Lakes region, Peter Pham worked a lot on good governance and the fight against corruption.