Denmark’s parliament has approved two separate deployments to the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa, the Ministry of Defense said in a Thursday, October 4 release.
Denmark will send a C-130J transport aircraft and up to 65 personnel to MINUSMA, the United Nations mission in Mali, for six months from mid-November, the release said.
“Denmark will also deploy up to 10 persons to an intelligence unit within MINUSMA, whose task is to help strengthen the mission’s situational awareness and increase the security of MINUSMA forces,” the release added.
Launched in 2013, MINUSMA is considered one the most dangerous U.N. peacekeeping missions.
Denmark has supported MINUSMA since 2014, including by sending special operations troops in 2016, and a C-130J aircraft, most recently in 2017. The C-130J deployment is part of a transport aircraft rotation plan agreed with Belgium, Norway and Portugal. The four countries along with Sweden also run and guard a camp.
In addition, Denmark will deploy two EH-101 Merlin transport helicopters along with up to 70 personnel and one or two staff officers to the France-led Operation Barkhane counter-terrorism mission in the Sahel.
The helicopters will be used for personnel and materiel transport, as well as undertaking reconnaissance missions.
The release did not specify when the helicopters will be deployed to Barkhane, but Denmark’s military attaché to Paris tweeted that the “Merlins will be based in Gao from December 2019 for one year,” giving an overlap with the potential end of a British deployment to the mission.
The U.K. announced in July it would extend its Chinook helicopter support to Barkhane by at least six months, and it remains unclear when those helicopters will withdrawn. Around 50 Estonian troops are deployed to Gao in a force-protection capacity, but Estonia’s defense ministry is reportedly seeking to nearly double its troop contribution to Barkhane.
Colonial power France began its military intervention in Mali in 2013, launching Operation Serval after extremists linked to al-Qaeda exploited a Tuareg rebel uprising to take key cities in the desert north. That mission in 2014 evolved into Operation Barkhane, which comprises around 4,500 troops with a mandate for counter-terrorsm missions across vast Sahel region.
Barkhane focuses activity in insurgent-hit Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger. Troops will work alongside the G5 Sahel Joint Force, a long-planned 4,500-strong joint counter-terrorism force comprising personnel from Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger and Mauritania.
“With these Danish military contributions, we are contributing to provide stability and security in the region and these efforts are necessary in order ensure that areas in the region do not come under the control of extremists, traffickers or other criminals,” Minister of Defence Trine Bramsen said.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Jeppe Kofod said it was important for Denmark to “contribute to the stability of Europe’s neighboring regions.”
“Our enhanced military engagement will supplement our current, strong stabilization and development efforts in the region,” Kofod added.
The Danish government first announced its plan to send two transport helicopters to the French mission in February, and in September said it would send to parliament its plans for deployments in the Sahel, Syria, and to NATO missions.