Dangerous, complex, vast: UK troops’ challenges in Mali

Deployment of 250 troops in one of most dangerous regions in the world is planned for 2020
Ruth Maclean West Africa correspondent and Dan Sabbagh Defence and security editor

Thu 8 Aug 2019


UN peacekeeping soldiers patrol the streets of Gao where the UK troops are expected to be based. Photograph: Souleymane Ag Anara/AFP/Getty

Two hundred and fifty highly trained British ground troops scheduled to be deployed in a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali in 2020 may not yet know exactly where they are heading or what precisely they will be doing, but they do know it will be risky.

Mali is the most dangerous country in the world for UN peacekeepers: so far 123 have died and 358 have been severely wounded in the ongoing counter-insurgency operations.

It is much more dangerous for Malian citizens, who are facing a deepening humanitarian crisis. “Violence and insecurity have escalated to unprecedented levels” in parts of Mali and nearby countries, the UN said in May.


The British deployment comes at the request of the UN mission in the west African country, known as Operation Minusma. According to UK sources, the request was based on the assertion that the British army was uniquely positioned to offer much-needed intelligence capabilities. After other European countries had contributed, arguably it was also Britain’s turn.
Whatever intelligence British forces glean from their operations will be shared with the 13,000 peacekeepers already on the ground, who include soldiers from other west African countries, Bangladesh and Egypt.



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