United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The United States on Wednesday rejected calls for stronger UN support for a West African force fighting jihadists in the increasingly volatile Sahel region.
Backed by France, five countries of the region -- Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger -- last year agreed to set up the G5 Sahel force and received more than $500 million in donor pledges.
Abo 5,000 troops are to be deployed in the Sahel with a mandate to confront jihadists alongside France's Barkhane Operation, but the deployment has faced delays and the joint force is poorly-equipped.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged the Security Council to agree to regular, annual UN funding of the force and France also argued that more must be done to shore up the joint military operation.
Reiterating its stance, the United States made clear that it opposes a Security Council mandate for the Sahel force and direct UN funding.
"The United States will not accept any proposal to move these forward in the Security Council," US political coordinator Amy Tachco told a council meeting.
That was a message directed at France which failed last year to persuade the United States to back UN support for the force and is hoping to revive that bid at a later time.
"Let's be realistic, the joint force still faces many challenges," said French Ambassador Francois Delattre.
The Sahel force is getting some technical assistance from the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, which has registered the highest number of peacekeeper deaths among UN operations.
UN peacekeeping official Bintou Keita told the council that "the security situation in the Sahel is dire", warning that terrorism and organized crime will affect the region "for many years to come."
The United States has backed bilateral funding for the Sahel force but opposed opening up a new UN budget envelope for the regional operation.
France intervened militarily in Mali in 2013 to help government forces drive Al-Qaeda-linked jihadists out of the country's north.
But large tracts of the country remain lawless despite a peace accord signed with ethnic Tuareg leaders in mid-2015 aimed at isolating jihadists.
Violence has spilled over into both Burkina Faso and Niger.