PAU, FRANCE - A surge of terrorist violence in Africa’s Sahel region is forcing West African nations to reconsider their strategy and unify military forces. Leaders invited by French President Emmanuel Macron to a G5 summit in the southern French city of Pau on Monday agreed to pursue their engagements with France - and put aside their differences with the former colonial power – to fight against jihadism.

Presidents of Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad joined Monday with French President Emmanuel Macron at a ceremony in Pau commemorating French soldiers killed recently in Mali.

Macron’s purpose for inviting members of G5 Sahel was to clarify their position on France’s military presence in the Sahel region at a time when protests are growing in Mali and Burkina-Faso against French military operation Barkhane.

Protesters blame Paris for failing to restore stability.

Amid growing anti-French sentiment in the region, Macron was looking to boost the legitimacy of France’s presence. He received it from his West African counterparts – who at this meeting – appeared to be on his side.

The French leader, at a news conference, said the heads of state of the G5 Sahel wish to pursue their engagements with France and its allies in the region.

France and G5 Sahel states agreed to change of the method combining their military forces under one command structure, to concentrate their efforts in the three borders zone of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, and called for more international support.

Mr. Macron announced France will deploy 220 more troops and will work to convince US forces to stay.
Macron assured his West African counterparts that if the Americans withdraw, that would be bad news.  He said he hopes he can convince President Donald Trump that the fight against terrorism in which he is engaged is also playing in the region.

U.N. officials say the number of casualties has increased five times since 2016 with more than 4,000 victims in 2019. In Niger recently, terrorist attacks killed 89 people on January 9 in Chinegodar and 71 on December 10 in Inates.

France, a former colonial power in the Sahel, deployed 4,500 soldiers in the region. Thirteen French soldiers died on November 25th in a helicopter crash in Mali.

France has suffered 41 casualties since its current engagement in the Sahel began in 2013.