African Union to send 3,000 troops to the Sahel region

The African Union (AU) announced that it is planning to send 3,000 temporary troops to the restive West African Sahel region, where local forces are struggling to contain a nearly eight-year-old insurgency by Islamist groups. 

Head of the AU's Peace and Security Commission Smail Chergui said: "On the decision of the summit to work on deploying a force of 3,000 troops to help the Sahel countries degrade terrorist groups, I think this is a decision that we'll be working on together with the G5 Sahel and ECOWAS." 

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is the West African regional bloc.

"I think this decision has been taken because as we see, as you can recognize yourself, the threat is expanding, it’s becoming more complex," Chergui added. 

The G5 Sahel, comprised of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger launched the G5 Sahel joint counter-terrorism force in 2017 to “combat terrorism, transnational organized crime and human trafficking in the Sahel area.” Five thousand troops from the G5 Sahel are already on the ground.

The security situation in the Sahel has been worsening after a Tuareg rebellion started in 2012, seizing much of northern Mali and declaring independence. Islamist groups who supported the separatists at first turned against them ultimately and took control of several towns and regions.