The Daily Telegraph

Ministers bid to scale back role in Sahel battle against jihadists


SENIOR ministers are preparing to hold a closed-door meeting to conduct a full review of Britain’s involvemen­t in the Sahel, which is battling against the fastest-growing jihadist insurgency.

Foreign Office, Internatio­nal Developmen­t and Ministry of Defence ministers will discuss how the UK could scale back its involvemen­t in the Sahel, a region south of the Sahara, as part of a government push to cut costs, The Daily Telegraph understand­s.

Britain has been directing resources towards the Sahel since 2018 as part of a post-brexit vision for engaging with Africa’s emerging markets and working with allies on overseas missions. It is understood that three Chinook helicopter­s supporting French forces and 250 front-line troops committed to a United Nations peacekeepi­ng mission in Mali will probably not be touched.

But other elements could be at risk, including new embassies in Niger and Chad, Whitehall’s Joint Sahel Department, and hundreds of millions of pounds of aid and military assistance.

One senior source said the review was being pushed by Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, and a faction of Whitehall officials who do not believe the UK should spend any more manpower or resources on the crisis.

Dr Alex Vines, the Africa director at the Chatham House think tank, described the Mali peacekeepi­ng role as “the most dangerous mission since Afghanista­n” and warned that cuts could put British troops at risk.

A Government spokesman said the UK was “committed to helping secure long-term stability in the Sahel and bringing life-saving humanitari­an and developmen­t aid” to those in need.

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