France is rallying fellow European nations to join a Special Operations task force that will be deployed in the Sahel region of Africa to combat Islamist terrorists.
The task force will be named Task Force TAKUBA, which in the Tuareg language means “sabre.” It will be comprised of Special Operations units from approximately a dozen European countries. Judging from past and current deployments of European SOF units in the Sahel region, and particularly in Mali, Ireland, Estonia, Latvia, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom will likely be contributing to the new combined Special Operations Task Force.
“By 2020, special forces from European countries will be deployed in Mali alongside French special forces to pass on exceptional know-how” to Mali’s army, said the French Defence Minister Florence Parly.
Task Force TAKUBA’s main role will be to train, advise, and assist partner forces in battling the terrorists — essentially a Foreign Internal Defence (FID) mission. However, independent offensive operations shouldn’t be excluded. Currently, European SOF units in the Sahel conduct Special Reconnaissance (SR) and Direct Action (DA) operations.
The U.S. will be cooperating with its allies, but will not be contributing any forces to the new unit. American SOF units in the region have been quite active since the start of the decade. And recently, AFRICOM announced that a drone airbase in Niger is now operational.
The G5 Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger) are a hotbed of terrorism and consequently instability in the region. In 2013, Islamists groups came agonizingly close to toppling the Malian government. The shift response of France, however, reversed the tide and pushed back the jihadists. Since then, France has led the way in the region by deploying approximately 5,000 troops under Operation Barkhane.
In 2017, a Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha from the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) was ambushed in Niger, resulting in the death of four Americans. With international assistance, which has included a potent U.S. SOF presence in the region, the G5 Sahel countries have been pushing back the various jihadist groups, which are affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
The United Nations (U.N.) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently published the findings of a U.N. report on the security conditions in the Sahel. “The security situation continued to deteriorate across the Sahel region,” said Guterres, “with attacks by terrorist groups against civilians and security forces and persistent violence along community lines.” The U.N. Secretary-General added that the main concern is that the violence and extremism found in the Sahel will transfuse into West Africa with adverse consequences for the region.
It might seem a far off place, but an unstable West Africa and Sahel could prove a real threat to America and Europe. Afghanistan, after all, is also a far off place, but al-Qaeda effectively utilized it to train its cohorts.