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[News] Italian armed forces invest in Niger and Mali in Takuba

(B2) On the sidelines of the meeting with the French counterpart Florence Parly, on April 13 in Rome, the Minister of Defense Lorenzo Guerini announced that as part of the bilateral MISIN mission in Niger, the Italian armed forces will build their own military base, starting in July.

« This is a very important step to strengthen our action in the region which, in the future, will transform into an ever greater European capacity in the Sahel and throughout the sub-Saharan belt, from the Horn of the Africa to the Gulf of Guinea, in order to contribute (also) to the stabilization of Libya ", declared the Italian minister, Lorenzo Guerini, according to the Antonio Mazzeo's blog. This announcement comes a month after the arrival in Mali of the first contingent of Italian armed forces in the European Takuba task force, led by France.

A strong presence in Niger

Started discreetly after the agreements signed on September 26, 2017 between the Defense Ministries of Italy and Niger, the MISIN mission provides military assistance to the Nigerien security forces to increase their technical-logistical and operational functions. This bilateral support aims to increase capacities aimed at combating the phenomenon of illegal trafficking and security threats, “ as part of a joint European and American effort to stabilize the area and strengthen territorial control capacities by the Nigerien authorities and the G5 Sahel countries », Explains the Italian defense staff.

Training and assistance of special forces and intervention units

The assistance and training activities carried out by the Italian military have gradually developed over the years in quantity and quality, explains Antonio Mazzeo. In particular, the personnel of the parachute brigade thunderbolt was responsible for training the new battalion of Nigerien paratroopers (basic infantry programs, air raids, planning and complete execution of a military operation; motorized patrols, organization and management of check points, combat in urban areas). A training area was created inside a facility in Niamey, the defense said on January 26, 2021.

Trainers from the army and air force worked alongside the GIS, the special intervention group of the Nigerien Ministry of the Interior. While a unit of the 7th Trentino-Alto Adige Carabinieri Regiment, from Bolzano, was entrusted with the training and monitoring of a new elite force of the national gendarmerie, the GAR-SI, these Groups of Rapid Action – Monitoring and Intervention. A European project developed in several Sahel countries (see box).

An autonomous military base

Until now, almost all Italian personnel were housed at Air Base 101 built and controlled by the French armed forces next to the “Diori Hamani” international airport in the capital, Niamey. An airport where the forces of US Africom, the American command for Africa, also operate.

A strong Italian bilateral mission

According to the 2021 finance law, MISIN, in Niger and Mauritania (for the defense college) could be equipped with “a maximum of 295 soldiers, 160 light and heavy vehicles and five planes or helicopters”. They should include specialized reconnaissance, command and control teams; staff training; health and engineering teams for infrastructure works; a chemical-biological-radiological-nuclear (CBRN) threat detection team, as well as an intelligence collection and surveillance unit. NB: the figure announced is a legal maximum for the annual commitment. This in no way means a total and permanent presence in the country. But this gives an element of Italian commitment: important.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

The Gar-Si

Since the end of 2016, the European Union's trust fund for Africa (or Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, EUTF) has financed the Rapid Action Groups – Surveillance and Intervention in the Sahel (GAR-SI Sahel) project. ) in several Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Senegal). Objective: “prevent and combat international terrorism, illegal immigration and transnational organized crime”, explains the European Commission. GAR-SI have five essential characteristics: “autonomy, robustness, mobility, multidisclinarity and flexibility to adapt techniques and procedures according to threats”. Placed under the direction of the Spanish Foundation (Fundación Internacional y para Iberoamericana de Administration y Politicas Publicas), operational implementation is ensured by a consortium made up of the French, Italian and Portuguese gendarmes. Total budget: 74,175 million euros.


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).