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British troops deploying to Mali on a United Nations peacekeeping mission later this year have reached a “significant” training milestone.

Over 14 days, soldiers from the Light Dragoons and 2 Royal Anglian joined together for the first time on Salisbury Plain to start preparing for the mission.

It marks the beginning of months of training for the troops who will practise their reconnaissance skills, as well as intelligence gathering, patrols and medical evacuation.

The unit will act as the Long-Range Reconnaissance Task Group to the UN Peacekeeping operation MINUSMA.

As a non-combat unit, the soldiers will use Jackal vehicles to provide situational awareness and intelligence to help protect civilians.

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Robinson, Commanding Officer of the Light Dragoons, 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.”

The troops are deploying to West Africa as terrorism and conflict in Mali, and the wider Sahel region, continues to rise.

The mission is aimed at helping to provide sustainable peace to the Sahel which includes nations such as Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Senegel, Burkina Faso and South Sudan, as well as Mali.
The deployment, which was first announced last year, was delayed to December over the coronavirus crisis.

It follows the completion of the UK’s four-year UN deployment in South Sudan.

The mission in Mali supports the Government’s new approach to Africa, which includes support and training to Commonwealth partners.

Earlier this year, Forces News visited British troops in Senegel who were mentoring Cameroonian, Moroccan and Nigerian soldiers in the fight against extremism.

Last month, the UK also extended its military support to the seperate French-led counter-terrorism mission based in Mali.

A House of Lords committee earlier this month called on the Ministry of Defence to set up an “action plan” for Africa and said the Government needs to match efforts in Mali throughout the continent.