PARIS — More European countries need to get involved in the fight against terrorism in the Sahel region of Africa, according to French President Emmanuel Macron.
“It is our desire to Europeanise the fight against terrorism in the Sahel,” Macron said in a statement to the press upon arriving in Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, on Tuesday to take part in a G5 Sahel summit that Spain, Germany, Italy and the EU will also participate in.
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The G5 Sahel is a framework through which five African nations — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — cooperate in the fight against terrorist Islamist groups in the region and on development issues. Tuesday’s summit aims to consolidate recent military gains, help local governments reassert state control over areas in which terrorists have been present, and reaffirm local political support for military intervention, according to an official in Macron’s office.
France has been heavily involved in the fight against Islamists in the region since launching Operation Barkhane in 2014. Macron has been pushing for increased European military involvement alongside his forces, and though the process has been long and slow, some European countries have increased their participation.
“When France gets involved, it’s Europe that gets involved,” Macron said Tuesday.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is attending the summit in Mauritania, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and European Council President Charles Michel will be participating via videoconference, according to Macron.
A task force called Takuba, mainly staffed with European special forces, was launched in March 2019. Deployments are expected to start by the end of 2020, according to another person in Macron’s office.
French forces, acting on American intelligence, killed the top al-Qaeda leader in North Africa, Abdelmalek Droukdel, in an operation in Mali on June 3.
“Over the past six months we’ve achieved real successes in the fight against terrorism,” Macron said, adding it was thanks to scaling up of information-sharing and the performance of African militaries. “It is to consolidate these advances that I am here.”