According to Savvas Vlassis, editor of the Greek news site Doureios, Greece is preparing to send a Special Forces contingent to Mali to join French military forces in carrying out operations against jihadist terrorists.
Talks between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and French President Emmanuel Macron have been ongoing since early this year when, on January 29 in a meeting in Paris, the two countries agreed to conclude a “new strategic partnership that will significantly upgrade the level of relations between the two countries,” according to Mitsotakis.
This summer, French Defense Minister Florence Parly had stated, “under this operational cooperation, I asked my Greek counterpart to consider enlisting at a significant level, of [sic] the Greek Armed Forces on the ground, in Africa to combat the terrorist threat and to neutralize smuggling as far as possible, without waiting for them to reach the shores of the Mediterranean. This demanding commitment will provide greater operational experience and greater interoperability of the armed forces.”
Tellingly, on Friday, November 20, during an informal meeting of the defense ministers of the European Union (EU), Greek Minister of Defense Nikos Panayiotopoulos read a report on the situation in the Sahel and specifically Mali. He emphasized the common interest of European nations for stability in the Sahel.
The EU is currently involved in two different missions in Mali: an EU Training Mission, and an EU Capacity Building Mission under the EU Common Security & Defense Policy (CSDP). The Greeks have only two officers in the region who are working in the EU Training Mission. Yet, the officers’ task is strictly to train Malian forces and not participate in active operations.
However, the Greeks are now agreeing to send Special Forces troops who will take an active role in joining French military forces that are carrying out operations against jihadist terrorists separate from the EU’s missions.
The Greek personnel addition will be small. It will consist of special forces personnel who will be added to the Special Operations Task Force Takuba that is led by the French.
Currently, Takuba is staffed by France and about 50 special operators from Estonia. Yet, back in March, a number of European countries made a political commitment to send Special Forces to Mali. Czech units deployed to Mali in October to join Takuba. Soon they will be joined by about a 200-man contingent from Italy and early next year by a Swedish 150-man unit with helicopters. Both Portugal and Ukraine are now considering joining Takuba.
Many of these nations already have SOF units deployed in the region conducting Special Reconnaissance (SR), Direct Action (DA), and Foreign Internal Defence (FID) missions.
Under Takuba, the European operators train, equip, assist and accompany troops from the G5 Sahel (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mauritania) in their ongoing fight against Islamic jihadists from the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.
The Greeks, once the government gives the okay, will send some Special Forces officers to Mali to be briefed on the Takuba mission. Afterward, the main force of the Greek SF contingent will arrive. Initially, it’ll take over the security of the operation’s camp.
The French are hoping that Greece and the other European nations will assume a more active role in direct offensive operations against the Islamist insurgents.
In supporting France, the Greeks are also keeping the jihadist threat away from the Mediterranean.