British troops earmarked to join UN peacekeeping forces in Mali in December have reached a significant milestone in their training, the UK MoD announced on 29 July.
Soldiers from the Light Dragoons and 2 Royal Anglians conducted mission specific training together for the first time over a two-week period on the Salisbury Plain training area. It is the start of months of preparation during which they will hone their reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, patrol and medical evacuation skills.
The unit will act as the Long-Range Reconnaissance Task Group to the MINUSMA peacekeeping operation. Part of its non-combat role will be to conduct patrols in JACKAL vehicles to provide situational awareness and intelligence helpful to the UN mission in protecting civilians and progressing towards a sustainable peace in Mali.
“This exercise is part of an intensive training package. Over recent months we have been honing our specialist skills and now we have brought all aspects of the Task Group together to operate as a highly professional and effective peacekeeping force,” commented Lt Col Thomas Robinson, Commanding Officer of the Light Dragoons.
Terrorist violence is sharply on the rise in and around Mali. Marked by chronic poverty, instability, high levels of gender inequality and one of the world’s most vulnerable regions as far as climate change is concerned, the Sahel remains one of Africa’s most fragile regions.
This deployment will also support UK engagement in the Sahel under the government’s new strategic approach to Africa, which includes support and training to Commonwealth partners. It follows a successful three-year commitment to the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, where British engineers and medics built and repaired much-needed hospitals and military bases. It also forms part of a wider offering in West Africa, where the UK is working with regional partners in defence, diplomacy and aid to contain the spread of instability from the Sahel to other parts of West Africa.