The UK is set to deploy 250 troops to UN peacekeeping missions in Mali later this year. About thirty British soldiers and Royal Marines have been in the region for the past month already, helping with counterterrorism training in Senegal as part of the annual Exercise Flintlock, an integrated military and law enforcement exercise supported by thirty countries. The peacekeeping mission in Mali is one of the deadliest in the world, sparking fears that this new deployment could bog the UK down in yet another protracted conflict with high loss of life, like in Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
Why It Matters
Since France launched Operation Serval in 2012 to reclaim Mali’s north from Tuareg separatists and jihadist terror groups, the region has only grown more unstable as new terrorist outfits have sprung up, threatening the stability of the Sahel region, primarily the countries of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. France alone has more than 5,000 troops stationed in Mali. The ongoing counterterrorism training in Senegal aims to prevent the terrorist violence from spreading further west into Senegal and Mauritania, two countries that have managed to avoid any casualties from Sahelian terrorism.
The UK’s involvement comes at a time when the United States, which has about 6,000 troops based on the continent, mostly in West Africa and the Horn of Africa, is considering a global troop drawdown. France and the United States have thus urged other European nations to step up their involvement in the conflict to try to keep terror groups at bay.