The deadly ambush in Niger in 2017, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans, revealed to a dumbfounded public the silent war that has been taking place in the Sahel. Aside from U.S. troops, several other countries have a strong presence in the area. Belgium is one of them. And its Special Forces Group appears to have been devastatingly efficient.

According to a report authored by Dr. Nina Wilén, research director of the Africa Program at the Egmont Royal Institute for International Relations and an assistant professor at the department of political science at the Free University of Brussels, the Belgian commandos have been conducting crucial training and advising operations with minimum manpower commitment.

The partnership between the Belgian commandos and their Nigerien counterparts began after the two groups established connections during the annual Flintlock exercises of the last few years. Flintlock is the largest special operations exercise in Africa, drawing special operators from across the world.

Belgian commandos have been training the Nigerien Special Gendarmerie Intervention Units and the Nigerien police’s mobile border units. In addition, they have been working to establish a surveillance and reconnaissance battalion.