UK announces deployment of additional Chinook helicopters to Mali ahead of Macron visit

The United Kingdom will send three additional Chinook helicopters to Mali for counter-terrorism operations, the U.K. government said ahead of a visit by French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron that is expected to see additional security announcements.

The helicopters will be used by French troops, part of the wider counter-terror effort in the Sahel region of Africa, Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said in a Thursday press release. The Royal Air Force is already providing transport flights in support of France’s Operation BARKHANE.

British military personnel will not be involved in combat operations, the government said.

The release was issued ahead of May’s announcement during an address at the 35th U.K.-France Summit in Sandhurst to mark Macron’s first presidential visit to the U.K.

The summit also saw the announcement of additional military cooperation between the two countries. France has already agreed to provide troops for the U.K.-led NATO battlegroup in Estonia in 2019.

The government said that the U.K. and France would also create a joint defense ministerial council, “a permament and regular forum in which U.K. and French Defence cooperation can be discussed by the two Defence Ministers.”

They further agreed that the U.K. defense industry should be able to continue to engage in European programs after Brexit.

To that end, the government said the U.K. will work with France and other European partners to support the development of the proposed European Intervention Initative, a pan-European defense cooperation framework that aims to improve operations and deployment coordination.

MoreMacron lays out plans for common European defense (at The Globe Post)

France launched Operation BARKHANE in August 2014 under Macron’s predecessor Francois Hollande. U.K. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced U.K. support for the operation in 2016 in the form of airlift support for French forces.

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