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A Review of Major Regional Security Efforts in the Sahel

Increased attacks from militant Islamist groups in the Sahel coupled with cross-border challenges such as trafficking, migration, and displacement have prompted a series of regional and international security responses.

Security Responses in the Sahel Map

Sources: United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), European External Action Service (EEAS), G5 Sahel Secretariat, French Ministry for the Armed Forces.

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In response to the growing security threat posed by militant Islamist groups in the Sahel, the following major regional security initiatives have been undertaken in the region:
Sahel Security Responses Table

MINUSMA

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was established by UN Security Council Resolution 2100 on April 25, 2013. Its mandate is to provide security in support of the political process to help stabilize Mali following a push by militant Islamist groups to seize territory in the north of the country. Fifty-seven countries contribute with military personnel, including Burkina Faso, Chad, Bangladesh, Senegal, Egypt, Togo, Niger, Guinea, Germany, and China.

Military personnel are deployed to 13 sites covering 3 sectors, with headquarters in the capital Bamako:

  • Northern Sector (Kidal, Tessalit, Aguelhoc)
  • Eastern Sector (Gao, Ménaka, Ansongo)
  • Western Sector (Timbuktu, Diabaly, Douentza, Goundam, Gossi, Mopti, Sévaré)

Since 2013, there have been 191 fatalities among MINUSMA forces, including 118 from hostile forces, making this the deadliest peacekeeping mission in the world today.

 G5 Sahel Joint Force

The G5 Sahel is a subregional organization established in 2014 as an intergovernmental partnership between Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger to foster economic cooperation and security in the Sahel and to respond to humanitarian and security challenges, including that of militant of Islamist groups. In 2017, the G5 launched a Joint Force (Force conjointe du G5 Sahel, FC-G5S).

The G5 Sahel Joint Force concept of operations has four pillars:

  • Combat terrorism, drug trafficking, and human trafficking
  • Contribute to the restoration of state authority and the return of displaced persons and refugees
  • Facilitate humanitarian operations and the delivery of aid to affected populations
  • Contribute to the implementation of development strategies in the G5 Sahel region

Comprising 5 million square kilometers—roughly half the land area between the European Atlantic coast and Moscow—the G5 countries have deployed troops across 3 sectors (West, Central, and East), with each sector composed of 2 to 3 battalions. Each battalion will consist of 650 troops, for a total of 5,000 troops.

In addition to the member countries, the Force is supported by a coalition of 26 countries and the European Union.

Troop Commitments by G5 Sahel Countries

CountryCommitment to G5 Sahel
Joint Force
Total Armed ForcesDeployed to UN or Other
Peace Operations
Mali1,100 soldiers;
200 gendarmes
15,57050 to UN missions
Burkina Faso550 soldiers;
100 gendarmes
9,1002,100 to UN missions
Niger1,100 soldiers;
200 gendarmes
14,200975 to UN missions;
1,000 to the MNJTF
Chad550 soldiers;
100 gendarmes
30,3001,500 to UN missions;
2,000 to the MNJTF
Mauritania550 soldiers;
100 gendarmes
17,0001,050 to UN missions

Note: The Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) is the alliance of Lake Chad Basin countries combatting Boko Haram and the Islamic State of West Africa in the Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon border areas.

Operation Barkhane

In January 2013, France launched Operation Serval in Mali to counter a militant Islamist insurgency that threatened to topple the government in Bamako. In August 2014, Serval was transformed into Operation Barkhane, which has about 4,500 soldiers throughout the G5 Sahel countries and a budget of about $797 million per year. It has three major bases: in N’Djamena (Chad), where the headquarters and joint staff are located, as well as command posts in Gao (Mali) and Niamey (Niger).

In October 2018, Barkhane expanded its area of operations to Burkina Faso at the request of the Burkinabe government, which is facing a rise in militant Islamist group attacks.

EU Missions in Mali and Niger

  • EUTM Mali provides military training to members of the Malian Armed Forces. Its goal is to strengthen the capabilities of the Malian Armed Forces, with the ultimate result being self-sustaining armed forces capable of contributing to the defense of their population and territory.
  • EUCAP Sahel Mali provides training and advice to the national police, gendarmerie, and National Guard toward the implementation of security reforms set out by the government. Its objectives include improving operational efficiency, strengthening command and control, and reinforcing the role of judicial and administrative authorities while facilitating their redeployment to the north of the country.
  • EUCAP Sahel Niger aims to strengthen the rule of law through training, assistance, and advice to Niger’s security forces (national police, gendarmerie, and National Guard) with a view to encouraging regional and international coordination in the Sahel against terrorism and organized crime.

Additional Resources