The District of Columbia National Guard and Armed Forces of Burkina Faso concluded a formal partnership to develop the African nation’s counter-terrorism and peacekeeping capacities as part of the U.S. National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership program.
Burkina Faso is the 76th country to join the program, which will focus on building its security force capabilities, the D.C. National Guard said on February 3.
The partnership will include “mission areas related to homeland defense and security, disaster mitigation and response, consequence and crisis management, inter-agency cooperation, border, port and aviation security, fellowship-style internships, and combat medical events” similar to the existing partnership with Jamaica, the National Guard said.
“We are eager to develop our partnership with Burkina Faso through targeted security force assistance programs aimed at building Burkina Faso’s capacity in specific areas such as counter-terrorism, peacekeeping, intelligence, and defense institutions building,” said Major General William J. Walker, Commanding General, D.C. National Guard.
The agreement was formally signed on February 1 with Walker in attendance, as well as Burkina Faso’s Secretary General of the Ministry of Defense Justin Som, U.S. Ambassador to Burkina Faso Andrew Young, Brigadier General Moise Miningou, the Chief of General Staff for the National Armed Forces of Burkina Faso, and U.S. Air Force Brig Gen. Steven deMilliano, Deputy Director for Strategy, Engagement and Programs Directorate at U.S. Africa Command.
D.C. National Guard soldiers and airmen will start the partnership this month during the Exercise Flintlock annual drills with U.S. allies in the Sahel, and full participation will begin in 2020, the release said.
Africom on January 31 announced that 2,000 service members from African and Western nations will participate in this year’s iteration of Flintlock in multiple locations in Burkina Faso and Mauritania. The exercise begins on February 18 in Burkina Faso and concludes on March 1.
Flintlock is designed to strengthen the participants’ ability to counter violent extremist organizations and enhance border security capacity. It includes military personnel, Special Operations Forces and law enforcement agencies.
This year participating African nations include include Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cabo Verde, Chad, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia, with Western partners Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
G5 Sahel operations
The partnership announcement came just after aircraft with France’s Operation Barkhane carried out more aerial operations in Burkina Faso and Mali in response to a series of attacks in both countries in recent weeks.
Burkina Faso and Mali are part of the G5 Sahel, along with Chad, Mauritania and Niger. They launched the G5 Sahel joint counter-terrorism force in July 2017 with a mandate to combat terrorism, transnational organized crime and human trafficking in the Sahel area.
The five nations aim to deploy 5,000 troops in the region along the southern edge of the Sahara desert to work alongside thousands of troops deployed to France’s Operation Barkhane and the United Nations MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in Mali.
The force is headquartered in Bamako, Mali and is led by Mauritanian General Hanena Ould Sidi, who took command on September 17, 2018, succeeding Malian General Didier Dacko.
It is holding meetings in Ouagadougou this week beginning on Tuesday.
The G5 Sahel Joint Force initiative was spearheaded by France, leading to U.N. Security Council resolution 2359 in June 2017 that called for international logistical, operational and financial support to the initiative. In December 2017, the U.N. Security Council authorized Minusma to provide assistance to the G5 Sahel force in Malian territory, provided such assistance does not impact Minusma’s own operations.
At full operating capacity, the G5 Sahel force will have seven battalions spread over three zones, covering a strip of 50 km on each side of the countries’ borders. It is also expected that a counter-terrorism brigade will be deployed in northern Mali. Three command posts are planned, one in each zone. The central command post covering the tri-border area between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger is operational. The others will cover the Mali-Mauritania border and the Niger-Chad border.
About half a billion dollars has been promised by European countries and the European Union, the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey to finance the regional force.