Up to 60 Czech soldiers may serve in the Barkhane anti-terrorist operation in the African countries of Mali, Niger and Chad, but the government and parliament must yet approve the Czech Defense Ministry’s proposal.
The Czech Republic, along with other European countries, has received an offer from France, heading the anti-terrorist operation, to participate.
As many militant Islamist groups find refuge in the Sahel region, France cooperates with the local countries, such as Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, and Burkina Faso.
The Barkhane operation, which was launched on Aug. 1, 2014, will form the Takuba task group of European countries. Its participants will provide consultancy services and assistance to the Malian forces. At the same time, European soldiers will help Mali to fulfill special combat tasks against terrorist groups in northeastern Mali.
“We are in the process of discussing this matter. The government and the parliament have not yet reviewed the documents on the topic. Generally speaking, the aim of the eventual deployment of additional Czech soldiers in the Sahel would be to secure stronger support for the Malian Armed Forces in the fight against terrorism and illegal migration,” said Jan Pejšek, the head of the Defense Ministry communication section.
Within the operation, Czech soldiers should serve in the region until the end of 2022. The Defense Ministry estimates the costs of the deployment to reach 598 million korunas (€23.68 million).
Currently, the Czech Republic has about 120 soldiers deployed in Mali. This year, the Czech military will also take command in the EU Training Mission in Mali (EUTM) for six months. The main task of the mission is to help with the training of the Malian Army which fights against Islamist radicals.
Earlier, Czech Defense Minister Lubomír Metnar stated that more than 600 soldiers from over 20 countries serve in the EUTM.
Along with the European Union, the UN leads its mission called MINUSMA, which aims to provide security and create conditions for further humanitarian and political assistance to the Malian government. Five Czech soldiers serve in this mission.
However, unlike Barkhane, the UN mission does not conduct active operations in the fight against terrorist groups.