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Germany ponders more troops in Africa's Sahel

December 29, 2019

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said she supports sending more troops to Africa's Sahel. Although France already has a strong deployment, they've asked for support and Germany cannot "duck away" from the region, she said.

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer speaks with Bundeswehr soldiers
Image: picture alliance/dpa/M. Kappeler

Germany should consider expanding its troop mandate in Africa's Sahel region, Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Sunday.

"We will need to consider and decide whether we want to ensure stability on the ground out of our own interests, and whether the Bundeswehr needs a more robust training mandate alongside our allies," she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

The Sahel spans numerous countries, including parts of Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Mauritania.

France, the former colonial power in the region, has already deployed around 4,500 troops in the region to fight Islamist terrorism.

Germany's allies, however, have been "asking ever more urgently whether this division of work could be maintained," Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

There are currently has around 1,100 German soldiers stationed in Mali taking part in a UN mission in the region, as well as an EU military training mission.

Map showing the Sahel region of Africa

The mandate for German troops, however, does not cover taking part in counter-terrorism operations. Any troop mandate needs to be approved by parliament.

Consequences for Europe

Kramp-Karrenbauer noted that the Sahel region has become a "major hub for terrorism, organized crime, migration and human trafficking."

Germany cannot allow itself to "duck away" from responsibility in the region, she said, warning that doing so could have serious security consequences.

"In the end, we would have to put up walls and barbed wire all around Europe," Kramp-Karrenbauer.

The Defense Ministry recently revealed that it twice turned down requests from France to dispatch special forces to Mali to tackle the dangerous security situation.

In the same report, the ministry noted that "jihadist groups active in the region are enjoying largely unfettered freedom of movement" and that despite the presence of international troops, Mali's security forces are often overwhelmed.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has taken an increased interest in security and economic growth in Africa after Germany took in hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers in 2015 who were fleeing conflicts and poverty in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.

rs/rc (dpa, epd)

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