French summit aims to boost counterterror fight in W. Africa

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FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2019 file photo made available from the Mali Army, coffins being honoured during a funeral ceremony are pictured in Gao, Mali. As a security summit begins Monday in France with the leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania, Macron hopes to counter anti-French sentiment that has bubbled up amid frustration over the extremist attacks that killed thousands of people last year alone. (Mali Army via AP, File)

PAU – French and West African heads of states vowed to boost their military efforts under a joint command in Africa's Sahel region, which has seen a surge of deadly violence. They also urged the U.S. to maintain its key support in the fight against Islamic extremism.

Leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania on Monday joined French President Emmanuel Macron in discussing security issues at the summit in the southern French city of Pau.

In a joint declaration, they reaffirmed their “determination to fight together against the terrorist groups.”

African leaders said they want France's military presence on their ground and called for more international support.

They also expressed their gratitude toward the “crucial help" of the United States amid fears it may reduce its troops across the African continent. Macron said such a U.S. move would be “bad news.”

"I hope I can convince President Trump that the fight against terrorism ... is also at stake in this region," he added.

The White House National Security Council tweeted Monday that “the United States strongly supports African, French, and international efforts in the Sahel to strengthen security and combat terrorism.”

France and the five Sahel countries agreed to concentrate military efforts “immediately” along the porous border separating Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso with a unified military command. Extremist fighters move about the area with little challenge.