African securityU.S. may veto France’s plan to create a UN-backed African anti-terrorism force
According to U.S. officials and U.N.-based diplomats, the Trump administration is considering vetoing a French Security Council resolution authorizing the 5,000-man African counterterrorism force, the G-5, to operate in the Sahel. In principle, the United States, supported by the United Kingdom, backs the French – African counterterrorism commitment but does not see the need for the U.N. to authorize it. France, to fill the security vacuum created by the fall of Muammar al-Qaddafi’s government in 2011, has led international counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel, and now wants countries in the region to make more of a contribution to these efforts.
According to U.S. officials and U.N.-based diplomats, the Trump administration is considering vetoing a French Security Council resolution authorizing the 5,000-man African counterterrorism force, the G-5, to operate in the Sahel.
In principle, the United States, supported by the United Kingdom, backs the French – African counterterrorism commitment but does not see the need for the U.N. to authorize it, Foreign Policyreports. “It is not legally necessary for the council to authorize this force,” said a U.S. official, who noted that beyond financial concerns, the Trump administration wants to forestall operations that lack proper monitoring. “The recent history of using Security Council resolutions to apply the UN imprimatur to hastily crafted mandates without proper on-the-ground oversight and accountability is not glowing,” he said.
A second U.S. official said France is determined to see the process through despite American objections and attempts of American diplomats in New York to persuade Paris otherwise. The official mentioned that if France would not amend the initiative based on American concerns, the United States has the option of using the veto power to block the resolution.
France, to fill the security vacuum created by the fall of Muammar al-Qaddafi’s government in 2011, has led international counterterrorism efforts in the Sahel. Though the United States has provided financial, political, and intelligence support to the counterterrorism effort, Washington doubts the capacity of the region’s African armies to prosecute a counterterrorism war. In 2012, the French idea to assemble an army of fifteen African countries to fight Mali’s terrorists was dismissed as “crap” by the then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan rice.
The French diplomats expect the UN Security Council to support the African-backed mission in Mali as it has supported the U.S.-African anti-terrorism force in Somalia. French officials argue that the support for the counterterrorism resolution, which has been endorsed by the African Union and UN Secretary-General António Guterres, and supported by African states and China in the Security Council, will make the United States to blink.
According to a draft resolution obtained by Foreign Policy, 5,000 soldiers and police would be authorized to “take all necessary measures” to combat terrorist groups. The force is urged by the French draft to coordinate its operations, share intelligence with UN peacekeepers in Mali and French anti-terrorism force. It can also target drug dealers and human traffickers who fund terrorists.
In the light of American concerns, France has amended the resolution to be more detailed. It now empowers the force to fight U.N.-designated terrorists and associated criminals instead of the initial vaguely defined terrorist groups and organized crime outfits.
“We have a very strong and large support among the members of the Security Council on this resolution,” François Delattre, France’s UN ambassador, told reporters Tuesday. He maintained that the resolution is consistent with the dynamics at the United Nations to back African forces in Africa. “It’s a top priority for the African Union and for this region as a whole, and there cannot be any doubt that there is a real threat to international peace and security here,” he said.
It is not clear whether Washington’s resistance to the resolution is premised on the stated concerns or is financially motivated. One UN-based official said though “stinginess” is partly responsible for Washington’s reticence, it is also held by a sense that “they are being dragged into something that is not properly cooked. Paris will need to do a lot more work on D.C.”
A UN expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Gowan, stated that America has long perceived a “creeping suspicion” that any U.N. proposal to authorize a new African force will be followed by a request for fund. “My guess is that this is more about long-standing U.S. concerns about the viability of African missions than a Trump administration snub to Paris,” he added.