Many European countries are thinking about engaging in Mali (operation Takuba)

(B2) The arrival of European special forces alongside the French is not a simple possibility anymore. It is genuinely advancing. B2 has received confirmation of it, from many sources, and not only french ones…

European special forces could be engaged alongside the Malian forces, as the Barkhane soldiers today (credit : DICOD / EMA)

Details on the Estonian participation

From the information that B2 has gotten, one things is already sure: the participation of the Estonian. The Estonian parliament has given its agreement for the reinforced presence in the Malian sands. 40 men from the special ops will be present in Gao in tandem with the French. Estonia does not indeed have the means to operate on its own. And the advantage is that they can pool their forces with the other troops that they are making available, a little under 60 men, who will keep on working with Barkhane.

The Czechs

Another presence is expected: the Czechs. That can be surprising for those that do not know the Czech engagement in the Sahel. But Prague is very engaged in Mali. Their special ops have been present since the beginning, by means of protecting the EU training mission (EUTM Mali), which is based in Bamako. They have been able, with a lot of professionalism, to ensure the defence against a terrorist attack at the HQ (read : Le QG d’EUTM Mali attaqué à Bamako. Une cible nouvelle au Sahel : l’Europe) and then by intervening, out of area, to counter a terrorist attack on the camp (read: Européens (et Maliens) ont, bien, réagi). The Czech diplomacy also wants to invest itself in the region and has even reopened its embassy in the Malian capital.

The Nordic countries are very present

The Norwegians and the Swedish should also be present. For Sweden, this would be a real comeback of their special ops to Africa. Their last participation dates backs to 2008 for the EUFOR Tchad operation. Denmark (perhaps the Netherlands) could also respond to the call. Copenhague has already decided to send two Merlin EH-101 transport helicopters, and adequate personnel (70 people and two military staff officials).

As are the Southern countries

Another possible presence (not confirmed for now): Spain and Portugal. The Spanish presence would be quite logical. Spain is very engaged in the zone, and has often defended, together with France, a ‘stronger’ action from Europe in the region. Since the beginning, the airforce brings a notable aerial logistical support from the Senegal, with one or more C-130. The Spanish military are also present in Koulikoro in the Malian army training center in the framework of the European mission EUTM Mali, ensuring its defence against terrorist attacks (read: Des détails sur l’attaque du camp d’EUTM Mali à Koulikoro).

Madrid has been solicited, but until now has not responded in a positive manner, based on our information. The reason: the political situation does not allow the Sánchez government, in ‘current affairs’, to engage itself in a new operation. Elections and the formation of a new coalition could maybe unblock the subject.

The Brits are under staff constraints

The United Kingdom is also in the loop. London could send special ops, mais they are currently being used on other fields (Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria…). « We never communicate on the presence of special ops » answered a source from her Royal Majesty interrogated by B2, who therefore did not want to « confirm nor deny » this information. The pre-electoral political situation and the dissolution of Parliament also explain this British absence.

The Belgians are busy in Niger

The Belgians, who have a good knowledge of the African field have also been solicited. However, the situation of an interim government prevents a real answer. That’s the official version (1). In reality, Belgium is already quite busy. The government has given its green light for deploying a hundred special ops men from the SOR (Special Operations Regiment, ex paratroopers regiment for the connoisseurs) to Niger, in order to train a national army bataillon, as Didier Reynders recently confirmed (read: Carnet 11.11.2019). This contributes too to the European effort of reinforcing the G5 Sahel forces.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

  1. In practical terms, this situation does not impede an operation. In 2011, the Yves Leterme government, then in ‘current affairs’, took the decision of the aerial intervention in Libya, with the agreement of the chamber of representatives. A consent that was given with a nearly unanimous parliament, all parties combined, Greens included, as a colleague from the Belga agency, specialist in military affairs, reminded me. Only one vote was missing (from the populist Walloon right).

Nicolas Gros-Verheyde

Rédacteur en chef du site B2. Diplômé en droit européen de l'université Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne et auditeur 65e session IHEDN (Institut des hautes études de la défense nationale. Journaliste depuis 1989, fonde B2 - Bruxelles2 en 2008. Correspondant UE/OTAN à Bruxelles pour Sud-Ouest (auparavant Ouest-France et France-Soir).