Britain is joining an ‘unwinnable’ fight in the Sahel: think tank

British troops will be joining a broad coalition of international forces in the region led by France

French troops carry weapons at the 101 military airbase near Bamako before their deployment to the north of Mali. France is using both air and ground power in the joint offensive with Malian soldiers AFP
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The UK is committing 250 troops alongside the UN’s military mission in the Sahel, a fight a London-based think tank is warning is “unwinnable”.

The battle against Al Qaeda and ISIS-linked groups in the Sahel is expanding under the umbrella of Operation Takuba.

The Paris-led operation includes special forces from nearly a dozen European nations as well as Niger and Mali.

France will deploy roughly 500 troops, the Czech Republic 60, Estonia 50, with remaining countries yet to confirm deployment numbers.

The mission will operate within the tri-border areas of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger and be headquartered in the Liptako region, near a French military base in the Nigerien city of Niamey.

The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has warned, however, that Britain faces joining a losing battle in the Sahel. At least 423 UN and associated personnel have been killed in deliberate attacks in Mali.

In the region, Islamist attacks have become more sophisticated, RUSI has said and the Sahel has become crowded with international forces.

Successive missions by Western powers in the Sahel “have not done enough to address the root causes of conflict and instability and have added new layers of insecurity which is now spreading throughout parts of Africa,” the think tank has said.

“Before the UK deploys troops, the government should, therefore, conduct an accurate analysis,” it added.

RUSI has called for the UK to engage a clear and comprehensive strategy not just in the Sahel but across Africa.

“There is a unique opportunity for the UK to support sustainable peace and conflict prevention by moving towards an approach that uses accountability mechanisms to support African troops,” it said.