U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Nikki Haley (C, front) addresses a Security Council open debate on peace and security in West Africa at the UN headquarters in New York, on Oct. 30, 2017. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday called on the Security Council to be ambitious in its decision over a joint military force of the Sahel region in West Africa. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)
UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) -- The United States on Monday pledged 60 million U.S. dollars as bilateral aid to shore up a joint military force of five Sahel countries, but remained cautious over UN involvement.
The announcement was made separately U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley as the Security Council was holding a debate over the newly established joint military force of five Sahel countries, known as "G5 Sahel."
Tillerson said the money will bolster the capacity of those African countries in their fight against terrorism. "This is a fight we must win, and these funds will play a key role in achieving that mission," he said in a statement.
Haley told the Security Council debate: "We are proud to announce today that we plan to provide up to 60 million dollars in bilateral assistance, which we will work with our Congress to identify, to help stand up the joint force."
She indicated her country's wariness toward UN involvement. "We understand the force will need ongoing support and are eager for opportunities to work closely with our partners to make this effort a successful one. But we believe that the G5 force must be, first and foremost, owned by the countries of the region themselves. We expect that the G5 countries will take on full regional ownership of the force within a period of three to six years, with continued U.S. engagement. This is the approach that will be most effective, in the end, in freeing the region from terror."
It seemed that Haley was cool on the idea of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that the G5 joint force and the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, one of the five Sahel countries, could be "mutually reinforcing."
"We are inspired by the region's effort and intent, but we have reservations about encumbering a large peacekeeping mission with tasks it would not traditionally perform. The mission in Mali has struggled to reach its full troop authorization. It continues to suffer from a lack of enabling equipment, and it expends most of its resources protecting and re-supplying itself. What is more, the mission is coming under increasing attack from violent extremists and shifting operations and locations. For these reasons, the mission struggles to execute its strategic objective -- to support the peace process in Mali. Its ability to focus on its core objective could be further compromised by a mandate to support a force with a broad concept of operations and recurring needs. We owe it to the troops as well as those who have lost their lives to protect the mission's vital resources from further overstretch and ensure they are devoted to supporting a political solution in Mali."
She added that her country has serious reservations about using UN resources to support non-UN activities. "We will each bring different strengths, insights, and resources to bear on addressing insecurity in the Sahel."
The UN Security Council is expected to adopt a resolution on the 5,000-strong force of the five Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
Guterres called on the Security Council to be ambitious in its decision. "Firm political support for the G5 Sahel is vital, together with material and operational support commensurate with the challenges faced," he told the Security Council debate on Monday. Given the rapid evolution of the situation and the risks of widespread contagion, failure to act could have serious consequences for the region and beyond, Guterres warned.