Estonia’s government on Thursday said it would ask parliament for a mandate to send 50 troops to Mali for one year as part of France’s Operation Barkhane mission.
“By participating in an operation with the aim of creating stability on the southern edge of NATO and the EU, we support our strong European ally,” Estonian Defence Minister Juri Luik said in a government release.
An Estonian infantry unit on armoured personnel carriers and a support element would be tasked with ensuring the security of the Gao military base and its surroundings, the government release said.
Estonia currently contributes personnel to two other operations in Mali – the EU training mission EUTM-Mali and the United Nations peacekeeping mission MINUSMA.
Around 4,000 French troops are deployed under Operation Barkhane alongside the MINUSMA force that includes 12,000 military and 1,900 police personnel from 57 U.N. partner nations..
France launched an intervention to chase out jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda who had overtaken key northern cities in Mali in 2013.
That mission evolved into the current Barkhane deployment launched in 2014 with an expanded mandate for counter-terror operations across the Sahel region of west Africa that includes Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania and Niger.
In recent months, jihadists have increased activity in central Mali, targeting domestic and foreign forces in outbreaks of violence once confined to the country’s north.
In January, the U.K. government said it would send three additional Chinook helicopters to Mali for counter-terrorism operations. The helicopters will be used by French troops, part of the wider counter-terror effort in the Sahel region of Africa.
In February, European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini announced the E.U. would double its financial contribution to the G5 Sahel joint force, a multinational counter-terrorism force in the Sahel region.
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With reporting from AFP