The French coalition is leading the way in the Sahel in combatting Islamic terrorist organizations. The United States hasn’t been directly involved in either the French Operation Barkhane or the Takuba Special Operations Task Force. Yet, it has supported the French missions with intelligence, drones, and air refueling. Nevertheless, the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, Africa (SEATF-AF) recently coordinated for the delivery of 16 Mamba Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) to the Niger military. 

The APCs will support the G-5 Joint Force Sahel’s efforts in Niger. The force’s mission includes combating counterterrorism, transnational organized crime, and trafficking.

Furthermore, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has deployed SOF troops in the region. Additionally, Washington has pledged $60 million in direct aid to the G-5 Sahel and individual support to the five countries.

The South African Mamba

The Mamba is a South African armored personnel carrier designed for internal security purposes. It was developed during the late 1980s to replace the Buffel used by the South African military and security forces.

The first models were built on a 4X2 Toyota Dyna chassis that was afterward replaced by a more reliable Unimog chassis. All variants of the Mamba are mine-resistant and blastproof.

United Nations and African Union peacekeeping missions have primarily deployed the Mamba. The Mamba has seen active service with the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA), the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), the United Nations Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), and the British contingent of the Kosovo Force. Private security contractors in the Iraq War also widely deployed the Mamba.

Mamba Armored Personnel Carriers. (AFRICOM)

The U.S. troop footprint in the region has been small. Nevertheless, Washington, through the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), has been supplying members of the G-5 Sahel with logistical support.

In August of last year, the U.S. delivered 22 Mamba APCs to the Nigerien military. In July of 2019, the U.S. supplied the Mauritanian G-5 battalion with a Level II field hospital, night vision goggles (NVGs), GPS devices, computers, radio and phone communication systems, body armor, and other individual soldiers equipment.

Delivery of Armored Personnel Carriers Is Harder Than It Sounds

Getting the APCs to the troops was no easy task. Nathanael Phillips of the G4 Mobility Operations Division coordinated the recent movement of the APCs to the Niger military along with the staff within the Mobility Division’s Surface Branch. They did so by utilizing the SETAF-AF Tender program. 

“The SETAF-AF Tender program is a perfect fit for the unique requirements of moving Nigerien Army vehicles to a remote location, nearly crossing the length of Niger,” Phillips said. “A carrier with experience traversing the open deserts of Niger was selected, and through difficult conditions, the mission was accomplished within six days of the predicted delivery date.”

“We are proud to support the Nigerien military in their operations and are looking forward to continue to foster those valuable relationships,” Phillips added.

SETAF-AF mobility division delivers the armored personnel carriers to Niger. (AFRICOM)

The security situation in the Sahel needs to be stabilized. Nevertheless, most of the causes that allowed the terrorist groups to spread in the region, are political in nature. Thus, the Western coalition and the G5-Sahel must address them as such. Rampant corruption and human rights abuses in most of these countries have caused the very issues that plague the Sahel.  

The Sahel is a large region in sub-Sahara Africa. It has been a relative backwater of United States policy.

Although the U.S. has and should limit the “boots on the ground,” the State Department has to become more involved in the region than just turning gear over en masse.