Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are attending a summit in Paris on Wednesday aimed at accelerating efforts to set up a West African force to battle Islamist militants.

The G5 Sahel is composed of the armies of Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.

It was launched in October amid growing unrest in the Sahel, whose porous borders are regularly crossed by jihadists, including affiliates of al Qaeda and Islamic State.

Thousands of UN peacekeepers, French troops and U.S. military trainers and drone operators have failed so far to stem the growing wave of jihadist violence, leading world powers to pin their hopes on the new force.

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“For the last few months, the activity of terrorist groups has not decreased and the armies continue to suffer significant losses.

“This means that there is an operational urgency to regain control of the region and to increase the military effort,” a French diplomatic source said.

Among efforts to widen support, Macron has pressed Saudi Arabia to take concrete actions to fight Islamist militants and asked Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to contribute to the G5 when he saw him in November.

Saudi Arabia has now pledged 100 million dollars, a major boost for the force, bringing commitments to more than half the roughly 500 million dollars the G5 Sahel says it needs for its first year of operations.

The UAE is also funding a G5 “war school” in Mauritania that is due to open in January.


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