Task Force Takuba: Special Forces in the Sahel
April 12, 2021
Maria Garcia Ribera
April 12, 2021
Maria Garcia Ribera
Named after the Takuba sword used across the Sahel, Task Force Takuba was established at the request of the Niger and Malian governments because of the deteriorating security situation in the Sahel region. Task Force Takuba was launched on the 27th of March 2020. Initially, eleven European States together with Mali and Niger, adopted the political statement creating this force.
Unlike United Nations and European missions in the Sahel, Task Force Takuba is not mandated by an international organisation. It is under command of Operation Barkhane to fight terrorists in the Liptako-Gourma region.
It also provides advice, assistance, and support for Mali’s armed forces in coordination with G5 Sahel (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania), the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and the European Union’s civilian and military missions (EUTM Mali, EUCAP Mali and EUCAP Niger). Takuba is therefore part of the Coalition for Sahel, announced in the Pau Summit.
It was planned to achieve initial operational capability (IOC) by summer 2020 and achieve its full operational capability (FOC) in early 2021; but it will now reach FOC in summer, six months behind the schedule announced after its launch. Most of the nations that are part of Task Force Takuba have already Special Operations Forces (SOF) units deployed in the region conducting Special Reconnaissance (SR), Direct Action (DA) and Foreign Internal Defence (FID)missions.
It operates from three military bases of the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) located in Gao, Ansogo, Menaka and N’Djamena in Chad. It presents a two-fold modification of the existing counter-terrorism approach:
It complements conventional army missions through smaller special operations, which are more mobile and targeted
It aims to fill capacity gaps of the MAFa through joint operations. It furthers the logic that the withdrawal of foreign forces can only happen once national militaries can hold the territory.
Although in its initial stages, it is believed that the future impact of Task Force Takuba will be limited considering the limited number of special forces initially agreed.
Czech Republic – 60 Special Forces raiders from October 2020 until the end of 2022 at a cost of 25 million euros. These special forces will be supporting the EUTM.
Denmark – Participation from the Hunter Corps and the Frogman Corps is expected as well as two EH101 helicopters and 1-2 staff officers for Operation Barkhane.
Estonia – So far sent 30 Estonians based at Gao and attached to the 4th Light Reconnaissance and Intervention Unit of the Malian Army.
France – Providing 300 of its 600 members of the Task Force Takuba. They are divided between Gao with 60 members and the rest at Menaka.
Sweden – Helicopter QRF that can be deployed to manage unforeseen events, contributing with 150 members unit. It will be ready by 31st December 2021. It will use Black Hawk helicopters (Helikopter 16) as well as C-130 transport aircrafts (Hercules). If needed, it can also add an extra 100 members and will also provide surgical elements from its base in Menaka.
Belgium – Will support Takuba by sending three officers to headquarters.
The Netherlands – Deploy one or two staff officers to headquarters to be informed of the force and developments on the ground whilst it prioritises the current deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan until early 2022.
Germany – Has declined support with any troops but limits its contribution to political support.
UK – Currently deploy Chinooks in Mali as well as planning to deploy 250 forces to strengthen MINSUMA but limit its support to Task Force Takuba as a political one.
Norway – Despite being one of the first countries to promise a contribution to the project, withdrew its pledge to send troops. It feared this deployment would interfere with future deployments to Iraq or Afghanistan in 2022 and stretch its military capacity. Adding to that, it lacks the support of the Norwegian Storting, the supreme legislature in Norway.
Portugal – Will offer aircraft for MINUSMA and will have presence in Task Force Takuba as well as EUTM Mali. The deployment will be limited to two liaison officers in N’Djamena from January to December 2021 and 12 special forces personnel in Mali, for a period of six months still to be defined.
Greece – will send the paratroopers ETA (Idiko Timima Alexiptotiston) of the 2nd Regiment of the Greek Army and MEDEVAC air-lift capabilities.
Italy – The contingent is expected to consist of 100 men, equipped with twenty vehicles and 8 helicopters: four AH-129D Mangusta attack aircraft and four NH-90 transport helicopters. The personnel could be provided by the 9th Parachute Assault Regiment Col Moschin, the GOI (Gruppo Operative Incursori) of the Navy, the GIS (Gruppo di Intervento Speciale) of the Carabinieri and the 17th Stormo Incursori of the Air Force. Teams of the 4th Monte Cervino Alpine Parachute Regiment and 185th MMR Foigore (Reconnaissance Regiment for Target Acquisition) could also be deployed. This is expected after the Italian-French summit in Naples at the end of February, having a similar approach to the Task Forces in Afghanistan. Italy is committing 15.6 million in the project, 5 of which will be used in action during 2021.
Maria Garcia Ribera
Maria is a graduate of Brunel University in Military and International History and is currently undertaking a masters in Intelligence and Security Studies. Her research is focused on war and conflict and its effect on geographical acquisitions.