EU Foreign Affairs Council to discuss counter-terrorism initiatives in Sahel region

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is expected to seek EU military support for a joint EU-Central West African peacekeeping

sahel foreign affairs

Photo: French Military

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is expected to seek EU military support for a joint EU-Central West African peacekeeping force in the sub-Saharan Sahel region at a meeting of EU foreign ministers today in Brussels.

The current French-led Operation Barkhane force, comprising troops from France and five Sahel countries, has struggled to contain growing Jihadist terrorist attacks in the region. The latest attack on a Niger army base killed 89 people on January 9, after 2019 ended with the highest annual death rate since 2012.

However, Le Drian is expected to meet ongoing reluctance on the part of EU states to commit their forces to the region. Only Denmark has signalled a willingness to join the 4,800 force already stationed in the Sahel. Germany and the UK, while verbally supportive of French objectives, see their priorities lying elsewhere and are likely to keep combat commitments off the table.

Ongoing lukewarm support from the EU will increase pressure on French President Emmanuel Macron to increase troop commitments to the Sahel region, especially in light of expected US military withdrawals this year. However, increasing troops to the region is likely to further undermine support from Central West African countries—many of which are former French colonies suspicious of French intentions. They want Paris to hand leadership over to the UN.