The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) has announced that troops deploying to the United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operation Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) in Mali this December have reached a significant training milestone in preparation for their upcoming mission.

Personnel from the Light Dragoons and 2 Royal Anglian completed a 14-day training session on Salisbury Plain, which marks the start of months of mission preparation. Training will focus around reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, patrols and medical evacuation with the unit acting as a long-range reconnaissance task group for MINUSMA.

The MOD said part of the unit’s non-combat role will be to conduct patrols in Jackal 2 high-mobility weapons platform vehicles to provide situational awareness and intelligence in support of the UN mission.

The MOD added that terrorist violence and conflict is on the rise in Mali and the wider region. The area is affected by chronic poverty, instability and high levels of gender inequality, and is one of the regions most impacted by climate change Light Dragoons commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Robinson said: “This exercise is part of an intensive training package. Over recent months we have been honing our specialist skills and now we have brought all aspects of the task group together to operate as a highly professional and effective peacekeeping force.”

This pre-deployment training marks the first time that the 250-strong task group has trained together.

In West Africa, the UK is working with regional partners across defence, diplomacy and aid to contain the spread of instability from the Sahel to other parts of West Africa and the world.

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The MOD said: “The new operation follows a successful three-year commitment to the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan, where British engineers and medics built and repaired much-needed hospitals and military bases.”

It added that the deployment supports UK engagement in the Sahel under the government’s new strategic approach to Africa, which includes support and training to Commonwealth partners.

The Royal Air Force (RAF) has already deployed Chinook helicopters in Mali, supporting the UN peacekeeping mission in the country. Air support from the RAF was previously extended since operations began last year. The helicopters have been used to transport French personnel and equipment around the region.