Remember those old “United Colors of Benetton” ads from the 90s? If not, I forgive you for not being as old as I am.  Suffice it to say, they were quite colorful and had an international flair…much like today’s “SOF Pic of the Day.”

Instead of models, these are soldiers shown during a rehearsal for a Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Elysées in Paris. That beats the hell out of their last assignment.

The men are from Task Force Takuba (TFT or TF Takuba). This was a European task force that advised and assisted the Malian armed forces from March 2020 until June 2022.

French in Mali
French soldiers and their military working dog in the Gao region of Mali. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Task Force Takuba: Europe’s Answer to the Sahel Crisis

Task Force Takuba (TFT) emerged as a beacon of European military cooperation, focusing its attention on aiding the Malian Armed Forces in navigating the increasingly complex Sahel security landscape. With the Sahel region being a hotbed of terrorist activity, especially in the Liptako area that sprawls across Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali, there was an imperative need for an international response.

Inception and Mission

Conceived in March 2020 by a consortium of European nations, TFT was a display of solidarity against the burgeoning terror networks in the region. Nations from Belgium to the United Kingdom signaled their support for a task force that would function under the French-led Operation Barkhane, aiming to counteract extremist factions.

The name “Takuba” pays homage to the traditional takuba sword, emblematic of the Sahel region’s rich history, and serves as a symbolic testament to the commitment of international forces to restore peace.

Key Operations

TFT didn’t delay in making its presence felt. Notably, during the “Opération Solstice” in collaboration with French and Nigerien troops, they mounted a significant offensive against the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS). This operation not only dealt a blow to the terror organization but also fostered deeper ties between European forces and Niger.

Additionally, the task force undertook numerous other operations, often in partnership with Malian forces, to disrupt terror networks and ensure the safety of the region.

Composition & Structure

At its core, TFT thrives on the expertise of European special operations forces. Primary units include the Franco-Estonian TG1 and the Franco-Czech TG2, bolstered by the Swedish Rapid-Response Force, TG3. These groups primarily operate alongside ULRI, a Malian light force equipped with standard weapons and vehicles. As the task force’s role evolved, TG4 and TG5 were also envisaged.

Country-specific contributions varied:

  • France served as the task force’s mainstay, always being in the field.
  • Sweden, notably, brought in a 150-strong contingent, which can be bolstered by an additional 100 troops if circumstances demand. These troops predominantly consisted of special forces operators but also had personnel from conventional military branches.
  • Denmark chipped in with its EH-101 Merlin helicopters and up to 70 personnel.
  • Greece and Romania indicated their commitment by announcing their plans to send special forces personnel.
  • Italy took a multifaceted approach by sending both recon and medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) troops. They also contributed an array of helicopters to ensure TFT’s aerial superiority and independence.
  • Belgium and the Netherlands offered strategic support through their liaison officers, with the former also dispatching a surgeon.
  • Portugal’s commitment manifested in the form of special forces, with potential plans for expansion.
  • Hungary and Lithuania also pledged their support with special forces and aerial assets, respectively.


As the curtain came down on TFT’s mission in Mali in June 2022, it underscored the collective responsibility that the international community bore towards ensuring global peace. Task Force Takuba, with its diverse European contributions, remains a testament to how international collaboration can pave the way for stability in regions beleaguered by conflict.