Five African nations ask for more US aid to fight terrorism

WASHINGTON — Despite this week’s $60 million pledge from the State Department, members of the Group of Five Sahel States appealed for additional support Wednesday from the U.S. and other countries, saying the fight against terrorism in the West Africa region is a global problem.

The G-5 Sahel is a joint force created in 2014 by Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Mauritania to fight terrorism, human trafficking and drug trafficking in the arid Sahel region of West Africa.

“Either the world decides to help us to address this and then we can be successful, or the world will look at us to confront it alone,” said Joint Force Chair Abdoulaye Diop, who also is Mali’s minister of foreign affairs.

The minister made clear that the five countries aren’t depending solely on the U.S. and have invested their “most valuable resources” such as manpower and money to fight the growing jihadist threat.

“It’s an investment in our future, it is not an expenditure,” Diop said.

The joint force is seeking $450 million from foreign partners. The countries also want development support targeted toward youth.

Young people are the most vulnerable to recruitment by terrorists, and they also are drawn to drug and human trafficking because of the lack of job opportunities, according to Diop.

However, Burkina Faso Minister of Foreign Affairs Alpha Barry said the lack of security for people living in the area is a major reason that the countries’ economies are struggling.

“Without security no development is possible,” he said.

While Boko Haram started as a religious extremist terrorist group in Nigeria, it has spread to neighboring countries, including Niger, and narco- terrorists have seized the opportunity to traffic drugs.

“What we are dealing with is not religious extremists, we are dealing with narco-terrorists. These are drug traffickers who need more space in order to operate,” said Niger Minister of Foreign Affairs Ibrahim Yacoubou.

Four American soliders were killed in Niger in early October.

“What happened to your soldiers, we’re living this every day,” Diop said.