Saudi Arabia pledges $100 million to Sahel force
West Africa’s new regional military force is to receive a major financial boost after Saudi Arabia pledged $100 million to help the G5 Sahel force continue its fights against religious extremists, Reuters reports.
Mali’s foreign ministry said Saudi Arabian authorities made the pledge during a visit to the kingdom late last month by Malian Foreign Minister.
The cash-strapped G5 Sahel force, comprising troops from Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, launched its first military campaign in October as jihad militants affiliated with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) continued to carry out attacks in the region, taking advantage of the porous borders between the countries.
Attacks by these groups targeting civilians, the military and tourist sites have spiked with fears that the Sahel region will become a new breeding ground for militants. The G5 force says it requires approximately $500 million to fund the first year of its operations.
The European Union, France, the United States and each of the G5 countries have also promised to fund the force. But Riyadh’s contribution is not motivated purely by philanthropy. The Sunni Muslim country is competing with its rival Shi’ite Iran for influence across West Africa and the Muslim World with both countries donating to mosques and other offices of influence.
France, one of the strongest backers of the G5, also pressured Saudi Crown Prince to contribute to the G5 when he visited Riyadh in November.