Sweden takes the lead for a new tactic in Mali

Recently, Mali has seen an increase of criminal activities due to organised crime and violence-inciting Islamist groups. Assisted by new and more mobile tactics, the UN mission Minusma will now actively try and stop this negative trend.

Lieutenant General Dennis Gyllensporre talking to soldiers and officers of the Mali 12 Rifle Company. Photo: Oscar Larsson/Swedish Armed Forces
Lieutenant General Dennis Gyllensporre outside the facilities of the repair troop in Camp Castor. Photo: Oscar Larsson/Swedish Armed Forces

The sun is high in the sky when Swedish Lieutenant General Dennis Gyllensporre, Force Commander of the United Nation’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (Minusma) pays a visit to Sweden's most recent troop contribution to Minusma.

Over the past year, Sweden has redeployed its troop contribution from Timbuktu in the northern parts of the country to the city of Gao in eastern Mali. This troop contribution also has a new set of skills and capabilities. Previously, this was an intelligence unit, but now it is a rifle company. Together with several other nations, the company constitutes a mobile task force.

The mobile task force is a type of unit that was previously lacking in Minusma and in the UN. The deteriorating security situation in Mali with more threats, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and more casualties has made it necessary for Minusma to change the way it operates, Lieutenant General Gyllensporre says.

“In order to do that, we need to change our conduct and get a new set of capabilities.  The purpose of the transformation is to be able to swiftly intervene when there is a threat to the implementation of the peace agreement, or to the safety of the civilian population.”

The UN term for this transformation of conduct is Adaptation. And according to the UN Security Council resolution 2531 that was adopted earlier this year, adaptation is a top priority for Minusma. This means that Minusma is supplied with advanced ground force units, as well as helicopters and more airborne reconnaissance vehicles.

“The nature of this conflict also requires the units to employ a more robust conduct.  This is not a conventional peacekeeping mission with an existing peace that is to be monitored. Here, it is instead a question of changing the situation by implementing the peace agreement and to protect the civilian population from violent attacks carried out by armed groups”, Lieutenant General Gyllensporre explains.

In the future, Minusma will continue to operate with conventional infantry battalions in the places where the mission is already present, in order to secure population centres and support the peace agreement. In addition, the mobile task forces can be rapidly deployed to places that see outbursts of violence, or when there are indications of imminent violence or disturbances.

“The purpose of the task force is to rapidly react to, or prevent violent outbursts, thus creating security conditions for non-military components to address other aspects of life that cause difficulties for the civilian population”, Lieutenant General Dennis Gyllensporre concludes.