France and its allies officially establish Takuba force in the Sahel


France and several of its European and African allies officially formed the Takuba Task Force on Friday, made up of European special forces that will fight alongside the Malian and Nigerian armies in the Sahel.

Defence ministers and representatives from 13 countries – Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, France, Mali, Niger, Norway, Netherlands, Portugal, the United Kingdom, Sweden and the Czech Republic – following an audio conference, due to the coronavirus epidemic – adopted a declaration in which they pledged to redouble their efforts to overcome “the resilience of terrorist groups”.

“A robust integrated approach is needed to reverse the current negative trends and address the root causes of instability in Mali and the Sahel region,” said the ministers in their statement.

“Strengthening security creates the conditions necessary for the development of Mali, the improvement of governance and respect for the rule of law, which are, in turn, necessary to achieve lasting peace.”

The Task Force will be made up of 500 members of European special forces, including a hundred French soldiers in addition to the elements already engaged in the Saber force.

Placed under the command of Operation Barkhane, it will operate mainly in the Malian region of Liptako, the ministers said in a joint statement.

In addition to France, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands and Portugal have confirmed their participation in Takuba. Sweden has also expressed interest, subject to the consent of its Parliament.

Takuba is expected to reach its initial operational capacity in the summer of 2020 and its full operational capacity in early 2021, said the statement.

“It will play a key role in the rapid empowerment of local armed forces,” said the ministers.

The statement said the security situation in Mali, and more broadly in the Sahel, remains a major concern. “Despite constant engagement by national, regional and international forces, organized armed groups keep destabilizing large parts of Mali and are now present in Niger and Burkina Faso. Recent attacks in the three-border region, where the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS)/Daesh is challenging the Sahelian states authority, has forced the regional authorities and the international community to focus more efforts on this area.”