PARIS (Reuters) - France and five West African states agreed on Monday to combine their military forces under one command structure to fight a growing Islamist militancy in the Sahel region, with Paris committing an extra 220 troops.
French President Emmanuel Macron had called the leaders of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania, known as the G5, to the southwestern French town of Pau to discuss the battle against insurgents in the Sahel, an arid region just below the Sahara desert.
With growing anti-French sentiment in the five countries over Paris' handling of an insurgency by Islamist militants that has seen hundreds of their soldiers killed in recent weeks, Macron had warned that he could withdraw French troops without a clear political commitment from them.
France, the former colonial power, has 4,500 troops in Mali and the wider Sahel, but security has been progressively worsening. Macron said the situation had now been clarified.
Militants have strengthened their foothold, making large swathes of territory ungovernable and stoking ethnic violence, especially in Mali and Burkina Faso.
"Today, more than ever, the fact is that the results, despite the effort, are below the expectations of the population," Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Kabore told a joint news conference. "It's for this reason that we have decided to review the deployment and redefine the pillars for our future action."
The new structure, named Coalition for the Sahel, brings the G5 states, French forces and any future troops under a single command. It aims to enable joint operations, greater intelligence-sharing and quicker response time in particular for French forces in the border areas linking Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso, where the insurgency is at its worst.