Army of the Czech Republic takes part in the Operation Barkhane
Involvement in the Operation Barkhane with a maximum of 60 persons and effective until 31 December 2022 is a newly approved mission for Czech soldiers. Let's take a look at what is the main objective of this mission, and let us also show you the statistics of the losses of foreign troops in Africa.
The main aim of the expansion of Operation Barkhane is to create a task group of European countries called Takuba, which will replace the French forces in the region and will continue to assist and advise partner Malian troops and accompany them in combat operations. France launched this operation in August 2014 and last year invited European countries to join. Its priority now is to transfer efforts to other parts of Mali to eliminate the armed activities of terrorist and anti-government forces in the new operational area.
Operation Barkhane is an ongoing counter-insurgency operation in the African Sahel region, which was launched on 1 August 2014. The core consists of 4,500 soldiers from France, who have a permanent seat in N'Djamenou, the capital of Chad. Soldiers are in charge of counterterrorism operations in the so-called "G5 Sahel", comprised of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
The French army initially operated in Mali in early 2013 as a part of Operation Serval, which literally "cleared" the north of the country of Islamist groups. The Operation Barkhane aims to build on this success and extend the operation to the vast area of Sahel while maintaining control of the territory and preventing the region from becoming a safe haven for Islamic terrorist groups planning attacks in Europe.
French soldiers in the region have already suffered a number of incidents and losses. We can name for example the first casualty from November 2014, two badly wounded and one dead in 2015 or the tragic year 2016, which brought four casualties. 2017 marked death for Corporal Julien Barbé after an explosive device (IED) exploded under his armoured vehicle. In the following combat between French forces and jihadist groups the very same year, 8 French soldiers were injured in a mortar attack and the subsequent airborne attack took the life of one more soldier.
There was one US Army unit attacked in 2017 during the search for the leader of the Islamic State and the Americans asked for French airborne support. While it did chase terrorists away, the long gunfight claimed the lives of 4 US Green Berets. That same year, the Antonov An-26 aircraft operating in support of Operation Barkhane crashed just before landing. Four crew members died and four French soldiers were wounded. The year 2018 was without casualties, but with a series of serious injuries caused by suicide attacks. Last year, the year 2019, was tragic again. During the counterterrorism operations three soldiers were deceased and several others were badly wounded.
However, the worst case in Operation Barkhane was an accident on November 25, when 13 French soldiers died in northern Mali after an attack helicopter Eurocopter Tiger and a transport helicopter Cougar crashed in the air during an anti-terrorist operation taking place on the ground. The loss of 13 soldiers was the heaviest loss for the French army since the bombings in Beirut in 1983. The French army then used a drone for the first time in a combat mission, killing 33 of the 40 terrorists.
The statistics described above clearly show that the soldiers of the Army of the Czech Republic will not have it easy. The inhospitable African environment there is fully comparable to the ending deployment of Czech soldiers at the Bagram base in Afghanistan. However, our soldiers are experienced professionals and they are used to such harsh conditions.