Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced today that the UK will continue to provide C-17 support to French counter-terrorist operations in Africa for at least the next six months.
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said today at the AirPower 2017 conference:
“We’re not just strengthening bi-lateral ties with the US and Norway, but with our close French partners. Six years ago, when the Lancaster House treaties promised ever closer cooperation some were sceptical as to what that might mean. Yet today our aircrews are flying in each others’ aircraft against the Daesh, our defence companies are producing world-leading missiles, and we are supporting French operations, by providing air transport to assist French counter-terrorism operations in Africa.
This agreement made at Amiens last year expires at the end of this month. But the need does not. So, as we look forward to the next UK-French Summit this autumn, I have agreed to continue providing this air transport support for at least the next six months.”
Working together with the UK’s firm ally of France in tackling extremism, the RAF has been providing C-17 air transport flights supporting the 3,500 French personnel deployed as part of the French pan-Sahel counter-terrorism initiative, Operation Barkhane.
According to a statement from the MoD:
“France is one the UK’s most important European Ally on defence and security matters and both nations aim to uphold the security of Europe through sharing capabilities in the most efficient way.”
In March 2016, during the UK-France Summit in Paris, the British government announced that it would consider providing support to Operation Barkhane. British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon then announced that the UK would provide monthly strategic airlift support to French forces in Africa.
The operation is “to become the French pillar of counterterrorism in the Sahel region.”
According to French Defence Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, the main objective of Operation Barkhane is counter-terrorism:
“The aim is to prevent what I call the highway of all forms of traffics to become a place of permanent passage, where jihadist groups between Libya and the Atlantic Ocean can rebuild themselves, which would lead to serious consequences for our security.”
French President, François Hollande, has said the Barkhane force will allow for a “rapid and efficient intervention in the event of a crisis” in the region. The operation will target Islamist extremists in Mali, Chad and Niger and will have a mandate to operate across borders.