On January 2, two French soldiers died and one was injured, after their armoured vehicle hit an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). The soldiers were part of a reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering mission conducted in the eastern region of Menka.
Less than a week ago the French also suffered three fatal losses due to an IED hit during a mission in the souther region Hombori. The North African wing of Al-Qaeda has claimed the responsibility for the attacks. The French soldiers were part of operation Barkhane, a French anti-insurgency operation that was launched in 2014. The operation covers multiple countries in the Sahel, including Mali. Since their mission in the Sahel started, the French lost fourty-four other solders.
After the French drove out most of the extreme Islamists in the North of the country in 2012, the EU created the military training mission EUTM Mali to help Mali’s army to reorganize and take back control. Despite successes in the beginning of the operation, insurgency and unrest has been on the rise throughout Mali in the past two years. Probably the biggest low point of last year was the military coup in August 2020 that removed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita from office. Germany’s minister of Defence Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer admitted there were high EU-trained officers amongst the coup plotters.
France has called upon its allies for support, as the Jihadi insurgency continues to spread amongst the Sahel. Several EU countries responded to the call. The recently formed French-Estonian elite unite Taks Force Tukuba started operations from its base near the city of Gao, and Czech and Swedish forces are to arrive soon. Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Italy and Greece promised to send special forces to Mali.
The recently created €5bn “Europe Peace Facility” fund, that allows the EU to sustain its overseas security and defence missions with the supply of military and defence-related equipment, infrastructure or assistance, still needs formal approval. However, due to the recent events, it is very likely that the fund will be used to sustain the EU’s endeavours in the Sahel at the earliest in 2021.