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.


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.

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.

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Muriam Haleh Davis and Thomas Serres, eds. North Africa and the Making of Europe: Governance, Institutions and Culture (New Texts Out Now)

Muriam Haleh Davis and Thomas Serres, eds. North Africa and the Making of Europe: Governance, Institutions and Culture (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018).

Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book?

Muriam Haleh Davis (MHD) and Thomas Serres (TS): We were motivated to edit this volume after spending the 2015-2016 academic year at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence, which has a strong focus on European politics and integration. As North Africanists, we felt that it was important to think about Europe from its margins, particularly as pressing questions about the past and future of the European Union were being posed by politicians across the region. We therefore organized a series of conferences on “Europe Seen From North Africa,” which brought together scholars from North Africa, Europe, and the United States. The insights and questions raised during those conferences form the basis of this volume.

MHD and TS: 
This volume addresses current debates on the definition of European space as a cultural, economic, political, and geographical unit. While the European Union (EU) presents itself as an area of freedom, security and justice, the vision from the periphery is far less enchanted. Indeed, Europe seems to be facing two, interrelated crises: the rise of Islamophobia (and overt racism in general) as well as a pervasive disillusionment with the technocratic governance that gave rise to the European Union during the interwar period. We wanted to explore how both of these crises have common historical roots by exploring the ways in which a certain conception of Europe—as both a system of governance as well as a cultural identity—emerged out of an intimate relationship with North Africa.

J:  What particular topics, issues, and literatures does the book address?

At the same time, we wanted to go beyond the narrative of colonial legacies and investigate North Africa as a space where new conceptions of Europe are still emerging. The aftermath of the “Arab Spring” and the ongoing migration crisis have prompted new investigations of the Mediterranean space. In 2018, the Mediterranean region encourages exchange and cooperation as much as it fosters exclusion and competition. Consequently, our edited volume explores the construction of Europe as an ideological, political, and economic entity by looking at its past and present relationship with North Africa. In focusing on how European identity and institutions have been fashioned though various interactions with its southern periphery, this volume highlights the role played by Europeans in the Maghreb as well as by North African actors.

While there have been repeated attempts to analyze the continued relevance of the European Union in world affairs, we felt there were a few lacunae in the scholarship. We hope that focusing on North Africa not only provides us with a variety of political and economic contexts, but also decenters the prevailing perspective and offers a fresh optic for understanding the current challenges faced by the EU. We also sought to publish an interdisciplinary volume that would allow for historical analysis to be fruitfully put into conversation with contemporary politics, sociology, and international relations.

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Originally published on Jadaliyya