West Africa - SahelBlog AnalysisMissions Operations

Several European countries are engaged or are considering engaging in Mali (Operation Takuba)

(B2 – exclusive) The arrival of European special forces alongside the French is no longer purely prospective. This is making concrete progress. B2 has had confirmation of this, coming from several sources, and not exclusively French…

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

Estonian participation in detail

According to information from B2 taken from a good source, one point has already been acquired: the participation of the Estonians. The Estonian parliament has given its approval for the reinforced presence in the Malian sands. 40 men from the special forces will be present in Gao in tandem with the French. Estonia does not in fact have the means to operate alone. And the advantage is that they can pool with the other troops they make available, a little less than 60, who will continue to work with Barkhane.


Another expected presence: that of the Czechs. This may be surprising for those who are unfamiliar with Czech involvement in the Sahel. But Prague is very committed to Mali. Their special forces have been present from the start, protecting the EU training mission (EUTM Mali) based in Bamako. They were able, with great professionalism, to ensure defense against a terrorist attack at their HQ (read: EUTM Mali HQ attacked in Bamako. A new target in the Sahel: Europe) then by intervening, outside the zone, to counter a terrorist attack on the camp (Read: Europeans (and Malians) reacted well). Czech diplomacy also wants to invest in the region and has even reopened its embassy in the Malian capital.

The Nordics well present

The Norwegians and Swedes should also be present. For Sweden, it would be a real return to Africa for their special forces. Their last participation by the Swedes dates back to 2008 for the EUFOR Chad operation. Denmark (or even the Netherlands) could also answer the call. Copenhagen has already decided to send two Merlin EH-101 transport helicopters, and adequate personnel (70 people and two staff officers).

Southern countries also

Other possible presence (not confirmed for the moment): Spain and Portugal. The Spanish presence would be quite logical. Spain is very involved in the area, and has often defended, with France, more 'reinforced' action by Europe in this region. Since the beginning, the Air Force has provided notable aerial logistical support from Senegal with one or more C-130s. Spanish soldiers are also present in Koulikoro at the training center of the Malian army as part of the European mission EUTM Mali, ensuring its defense against terrorist attacks (read: Details of the attack on the EUTM Mali camp in Koulikoro).

Madrid has been contacted, but has so far not responded specifically positively, according to our information. At issue: the political situation which prevents the Sánchez government, in current affairs, from engaging in a new operation. The elections and the formation of a new coalition could perhaps resolve the issue.

Britons under staff constraint

The United Kingdom is also in the loop. London could send special forces, but they are currently deployed elsewhere (Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, etc.). “ We never communicate about the presence of special forces » replied a source from His Royal Majesty interviewed by B2 who therefore did not want “ neither confirm nor deny " this information. The pre-electoral political situation and the dissolution of Parliament also explain this British absence.

Belgians occupied in Niger

The Belgians, who are well versed in African terrain, were also contacted. But the situation of an interim government prevents us from really responding. This is the official version (1). In reality, Belgium is already very busy. The government has given the green light for the deployment of around a hundred men from the SOR special forces (Special Operations Regiment, ex para-commando regiment for those in the know) in Niger, in order to train a battalion of the national army, as Didier Reynders recently confirmed (read: Notebook 11.11.2019). This also contributes to the European effort to strengthen the G5 Sahel troops.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

  1. In practice, this situation does not prevent going on operations. In 2011, the government of Yves Leterme, then in current affairs, decided on air intervention in Libya, with the consent of its Chamber of Deputies. An agreement obtained almost unanimously, majority and opposition combined, Greens included, as a colleague from the Belga agency, a specialist in military affairs, reminded me. Only one voice was missing (that of the Walloon populist right).

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).