African powers launched a new multinational military force in the Sahel on Sunday, which France’s President Emmanuel Macron told a regional summit should be fully operational by the autumn and some observers see as forming the basis of an exit strategy for French troops.
Islamist militant groups, some with links to al Qaeda, seized control of Mali’s desert north in 2012.
While they were driven back a year later by a French-led military intervention, they continue to carry out attacks against on U.N. peacekeepers, Malian soldiers and civilian targets in violence that has spilled across Mali’s borders.
Macron said France and African powers must work together to “eradicate terrorists, thugs and murderers” in the Sahel.
During Sunday’s summit, leaders of the G5 Sahel bloc - Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad - formally established the new force, which will operate in coordination with French troops and MINUSMA, Mali’s struggling U.N. peacekeeping mission.