The US is opposing a French-drafted UN resolution that would authorize military action by five countries in Africa’s vast Sahel region against extremist groups.
French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre said the African Union and the five countries — Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger and Chad — have asked for UN Security Council authorization for the force, saying it would be “the best tool” to combat extremism in the region.
France on Friday circulated a revised council resolution that would authorize the force from the so-called Group of Five (G5) and wants a vote, hopefully next week.
However, a US official said that while the administration of US President Donald Trump supports the force in principle “as a potentially important example of African efforts to fight extremism,” it does not believe a council resolution is legally necessary for its deployment.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because negotiations have been private, said the force already has a green light to go after extremists and “there is no compelling reason” to give it UN authorization under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which is militarily enforceable.
The US official said the G5 force should operate without UN approval, just as the task force operating in the Lake Chad Basin fighting Boko Haram does.
However, supporters of a UN resolution say that force never asked for UN authorization, while the African Union and the G5 have requested council approval.
They also say that the council has authorized the African Union force in Somalia, AMISOM, which is fighting extremists in al-Shabaab.
Italian Ambassador to the UN Sebastiano Cardi, a UN Security Council member, on Friday said the G5 are facing tough challenges fighting extremists and are doing so on behalf of the international community.
“We think it’s absolutely important that the council recognizes the efforts of the five Sahel countries, supports their efforts and validates the mission,” he said. “These are poor countries. They are doing a lot. They need help.”
The US wants to cut US$1 billion from the budget funding the UN’s far-flung peacekeeping operations for the year starting on July 1, and while the draft resolution would not authorize any money for the G5 force, it does ask UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to report to the security council in 60 days on options to support the Sahel troops.
The US official, asked whether potential new funding was an issue, replied that the proposed resolution only asks for a report.
The US government is “generous” in assistance to the five Sahel countries, and thinks the G5 force should be modeled on the force fighting Boko Haram, the official said.
The revised draft resolution would still authorize the G5 force for a year, despite US opposition, but it does address the proposed mandate of the Sahel troops, which the US official complained was “too broad” and “lacking precision.”
The new draft specifies that the force should be authorized to take “all necessary measures to combat terrorist groups” associated with the Islamic State extremist group and al-Qaeda, and other groups designated by the UN.
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