France donates vehicles to Mauritania


France has donated ten ALTV light tactical vehicles to Mauritania’s armed forces, which will use them as part of the G5 Sahel counter-terrorism force.

The vehicles were handed over to Chief of Staff of Mauritania’s military, Mohamed Ould Sheikh Mohamed Ahmed, on 25 January by French Ambassador Joel Meyer. The ambassador said the handover is part of France’s desire to strengthen its partners in the Sahel to fight terrorists, armed groups and criminal activities in the region.

The vehicles will form part of Mauritania’s contribution to the G5 Sahel force. The group includes Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad.

The ALTV (Acmat Light Tactical Vehicle) is a light 4×4 that comes in several variants, including station wagon, single cab, double cab and torpedo. Payload is 1.4 tons or two to ten people. Cruising range is approximately 1 600 km. ALTVs are in widespread service in Africa, with more than 200 vehicles having been delivered to Benin, Niger, Mauritania, Congo, Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Chad and Equatorial Guinea.

France has supplied other equipment to countries in Africa to combat terrorism – for instance in November 2016 it donated ten Peugeot P4 all-terrain vehicles, three ACMAT VLRA tactical trucks and two Renault TRM 2000 light trucks to Cameroon’s Special Forces as part of assistance to combat Boko Haram militants.

Other countries are also supplying equipment – for instance the United States has provided a number of Cessna Caravans equipped for the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission. Chad has just taken delivery of two ISR-configured Grand Caravans from the United States, for example.

On 15 January the G5 Sahel joint force launched its second military operation against jihadist groups in the Sahel-Sahara region, according to France’s defence minister. The focus of operations is along the borders between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. The G5 Sahel force was launched in July 2017 but only began military operations on 28 October last year amid growing unrest in the desert reaches of the Sahel, where jihadists such as al Qaeda and Islamic State-affiliated groups roam undetected, often across long, porous borders.

G5 Sahel force will police the region in collaboration with 4 000 French troops deployed there under Operation Barkhane since intervening in 2013 to beat back an insurgency in northern Mali. The force will eventually swell to 5 000 men from seven battalions and will also engage in humanitarian and development work.

G5 Sahel, whose command base is in Sevare in central Mali, will also coordinate with MINUSMA, Mali’s UN peacekeeping mission. MINUSMA has faced frequent attacks in the north where Islamists have regained ground since 2013.

The G5 countries have set a first-year operating budget of just under $500 million, with around a quarter of that committed. Late last year the United States promised up to $60 million to support the G5 Sahel Joint Force’s counter-terrorism efforts. In December, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates committed 130 million euros ($152.75 million).