[…] For seven years, three international forces — one led by France, the second by the United Nations and a third drawn from the nations of the Sahel — have tried to stop the jihadist miasma spreading.
So far they have failed. As Britain prepares to step up its political, military and humanitarian involvement in the Sahel over the coming months, officials across the West are warning that the region has begun to eclipse the Middle East as the new frontline in the war on Islamist terror. […]
Given that Minusma already has 11,620 troops in Mali, it might not sound like a particularly significant contribution, particularly given that 4,500 French soldiers are also operating across the Sahel. But for Lt Gen Dennis Gyllensporre, Minusma’s Swedish commanding officer, the British contribution will play a vital role in his efforts to turn around a mission that, until now, has widely been seen as a failure.
The United States has been a particularly fierce critic, arguing that UN-style peacekeeping is ill-equipped to deal with terrorism and is demanding an “alternative approach”. Gen Gyllenspore is not inclined to disagree with that assessment, readily acknowledging that the Minusma force “is not fit for purpose”. Operating under a mandate to protect civilians and stabilise the country, Minusma has been effectively unable to do either because it exerts only the most tenuous authority in the northern towns in which it is based. […]
Gen Gyllenspore acknowledges that things need to change fast. Sitting in bases waiting to be attacked is no longer an option.
Instead, in a radical adaptation of peacekeeping norms, the general plans to split his force into two tiers. One element will play a traditional peacekeeping role, with UN troops stationed in bases near important towns, as they are today. The second, which will be spearheaded by the British contingent, will carry out long-range reconnaissance patrols of up to 30 days deep into jihadist territory and be on standby for rapid deployment anywhere in the country.
“With a manoeuvrable force, we can be more proactive in anticipating attacks, projecting force and deterring and going in where there are confrontations,” Gen Gyllensporre said.
“This will be a more robust, versatile part of the force that will enable us to respond decisively. The British contribution will be the tip of the spear of our adaptation.”
It will clearly also be a risky contribution. Not only will British forces be operating essentially behind enemy lines, they will also be travelling on roads strewn with roadside bombs. Läs artikel