The statement made by Ben Wallace, the Secretary of State for Defence, in the House of Commons on 3 December 2020.
I would like to provide an update to the statement made by my predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), on 22 July 2019 (HCWS1779) in which we announced the Government’s intention to deploy a contribution from our armed forces to the United Nations multidimensional integrated stabilisation mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
I can confirm that 300 UK personnel will have deployed to MINUSMA and completed required in-country quarantine by 22 December. The deployment comprises 250 troops from the Light Dragoons, the Royal Anglian Regiment and other attached personnel, and a further 50 forming a national support element.
The UK has committed to a three-year deployment to MINUSMA, with a review to be held at the 18-month point. UK personnel will deploy on six-month operational tours with a two-week rest and recuperation break. Accordingly, the first deployment of Light Dragoons will be replaced by a second contingent led by the Royal Anglian Regiment and Queens Dragoon Guards in summer 2021.
As the Foreign Secretary recently said, working alongside our development and diplomatic efforts, the UK’s military contribution to UN peacekeeping is a clear illustration of how our defence and security capabilities can contribute to the UK’s role as a force for good in the world. This deployment reflects our continued commitment to multilateralism and international peace and security, a responsibility we take seriously as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. It is part of a wider Government response in support of progress towards long-term and sustainable stability in Mali and the Sahel. It will help to minimise the impact of violent conflict on UK interests and strengthen partnerships between the international community and Sahel Governments to improve the overall response to the crisis.
Mali is at the forefront of countries in west Africa affected by instability, with terrorist violence and conflict between communities sharply on the rise. The violence is costing lives, hindering development across one of the poorest countries in the world, and spreading to the wider region. Our contribution will provide critical capabilities to the UN mission at a vital time. We can have genuine impact on the mission’s overall approach, to help reduce the spread of conflict and insecurity, contribute to the protection of civilians, and build a sustainable peace.
Led by the Swedish UN mission force commander, Lieutenant General Dennis Gyllensporre, we will be working alongside over 60 nations all contributing to MINUSMA. It is a truly global collaboration with contributions being made by west African nations in the region and our traditional western allies including Sweden, Germany, Canada, France and Ireland. The largest contingents of solders on MINUSMA will be coming from Guinea, Chad, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, and Egypt.
The UK taskforce will be under the command of the Light Dragoons’ Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Robinson. The taskforce is configured for reconnaissance with their initial objective to understand the operating environment in the area around Gao so that they are well placed to support the UN mission. This will allow MINUSMA to better plan operations and deter and respond to threats.
Our MINUSMA commitment complements existing distinct and separate commitments we have in the region, including helicopter support to the Operation Barkhane (the French-led counter-terrorism initiative in Africa’s Sahel region), and sits within wider UK Government seeking to build stability, and support the most vulnerable populations in the region.
This is a dangerous mission. We have done all we can to mitigate the risk. Our forces are among the best in the world and they have the right training, equipment and preparation to succeed. I am confident that they will have a strong impact on the ground in Mali, will bolster our standing in the United Nations and will help us in our endeavours to make the UN and its peacekeeping missions as effective as possible.