|[Published: Friday March 21 2014]
UK 'must do more' to tackle Sahel terror threat
London, 21 Mar - (ANA) - The United Kingdom, UK, needs a "bigger footprint" in Mali and other Sahel-Saharan countries to fight extremism, a committee of MPs has said. The Foreign Affairs Committee pointed to a "mismatch" between the UK's vision of a secure western Sahel-Sahara region and its "very light" diplomatic work. It said jihadists had "put down roots" in the region, which was a "new frontline of violent extremism". The government welcomed the report and said it was "working" in the region. The Sahel runs along the south of the Sahara Desert, and the western Sahel-Sahara region includes Mali and Mauritania. The committee said concerted international action was needed to tackle the causes of instability and stop the "contagion of extremism from spreading further". Extremists had capitalised on poor economies, weak state security and anger at "corrupt governing elites", it said. Committee chairman Sir Richard Ottaway said the UK should "help build indigenous security capacity". "The withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan provides an opportunity to increase the number of British military training missions in the region," he said. "A powerful threat from extremism remains throughout the region with no sign yet that African countries would be able to deal with future crises on their own." Sir Richard told said little had been achieved following the prime minister's promise to tackle insecurity in the Sahara in the wake of last year's Algerian gas plant siege, in which six Britons were killed. "Economic activity is often desperately low, organised crime is rife, and armed gangs of militants seem able to move almost unchecked across porous national borders," he said. The committee said the UK and its allies had been "caught out" by recent crises in Mali, Libya, the Central African Republic and elsewhere.
The Foreign Office said the committee's report agreed with its analysis that "disengagement from this region would carry long-term risks for the UK". "That is why we have been working in the region both bilaterally and with key partners including the French, the US, EU, UN and African Union," a spokesman said. He said other UK work in the region included 27 UK troops and a civilian trainer who were helping the EU training mission to help Mali's armed forces, and the appointment of Stephen O'Brien MP as Special Envoy for the Sahel in 2012. (ANA)
FA/ANA/21 Mar 2014---------