British troops will return to the front line of the war on terror with a 250-strong unit despatched to “spearhead” the UN’s fight against the world’s fastest-growing Islamist insurgency.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分The light-cavalry unit will be flown into Gao in the north of Mali by the middle of this year and will mount 30-day land operations deep into jihadist territory.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分The deployment is Britain’s first significant return to an active war zone since the end of Operation Herrick in Afghanistan more than five years ago, a mission that claimed 454 British lives.
The British troops will operate under the UN flag in what experts describe as “the most dangerous peacekeeping mission in the world”. It has already cost the lives of more than 200 UN personnel.
The planned deployment comes amid US warnings that the threat posed by jihadist groups loyal to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in the Sahel2020欧洲杯足球即时比分, a vast region of arid scrubland south of the Sahara Desert, could start to threaten Europe as well as the wider region.
The French currently have 4,500 troops in the area but after seven years of fighting they are losing ground.
Dag Anderson, the American general commanding US special forces in Africa, said that jihadists had consolidated their hold on northern Mali, particularly in the region where British troops are to be based, potentially giving them a “safe haven” from which to carry out attacks on the West.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分Speaking on the sidelines of Flintlock 2020, a US-sponsored exercise to train African forces in counterterrorism techniques, Gen Anderson also said that evidence was mounting of Isil and al-Qaeda affiliates working together to extend their reach in West Africa.
“It’s the only place in the world we see that,” he said.
More than 5,000 people were killed last year as jihadist attacks spread from northern Mali into the centre of the country and then into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Islamist groups have stirred up ethnic animosities in the Mopti region of central Mali, triggering a series of bloody massacres.
Burkina Faso has witnessed a series of Sunday church service massacres targeting the country’s Christian minority.
With the UN peacekeeping force known as Minusma facing heavy criticism for its failure to protect civilians, Lt Gen Dennis Gyllensporre, the mission’s commanding officer, said that Britain’s deployment would give him the opportunity to turn the operation around.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分By acting as a rapid response unit, British soldiers will form part of a brigade that can be deployed quickly to respond to jihadist attacks across Minusma’s areas of operations, he told The Telegraph.
2020欧洲杯足球即时比分“The British contribution will be the tip of the spear of our adaptation,” he said. “With a more manoeuvrable force, we can be more proactive in anticipating attacks, projecting force and deterring and going in where there are confrontations.”
It is Britain’s most ambitious peacekeeping mission since Bosnia in the Nineties.