The head of the French army says the future of West Africa’s Sahel region rests on what happens in the coming year.
Chief of staff, Gen François Lecointre, said if chaos was allowed to take root, the Islamic State (is) group would fill the void.
He said military action alone would not defeat the upsurge of Islamist and other violence in the region – a political solution was also required.
General Lecointre defended the presence of 4,500 French troops fighting jihadists in the Sahel and said France would soon be taking it to the next level.
Last month, 13 French troops were killed when their helicopters collided in Mali.
Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania are the g5 Sahel nations bearing the brunt of attacks by militants linked to is and Al-qaeda.
The five countries have a counter-insurgency force, supported by those French troops, to fight the militants.
It was launched four years ago when almost all the attacks by the Islamist militants were in Mali.