“This force is first going to secure the borders, particularly in the areas where terrorist groups have developed,” the newly appointed minister said in an interview with Le Monde newspaper. “Accompanying them is the priority for the Barkhane operation.”
France has deployed soldiers in the region since January 2013, when it spearheaded an international military initiative against Al-Qaeda jihadist groups allied to Tuareg separatists occupying northern Mali.
Whole areas are still beyond the control of the Malian, French and UN forces working in the sub-Saharan region.
Deadly attacks and tense relations have marked the years since the military initative began.
Macron in Mali on Sunday
“The militarised and territorial terrorism, which occupied the northern half of Mali and threatened its southern half” has become “terrorism of opportunity and harassment” Le Drian said. “It has become dangerous again.”
The minister said that financial support was needed to train and equip the 5,000 military; police, and civilians who make up the G5 Sahel force.
French President Emmanuel Macron will visit Mali for the second time since taking office for the G5 Sahel summit Sunday.
On Wednesday he phoned Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to suggest “concrete proposals” to relaunch the peace process in northern Mali.
A peace deal between Mali’s government and Tuareg groups was signed in Algiers in June 2015 but has not put an end to the conflict.