UN Mission in Mali: Armed Forces Deployment - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:03 pm on 14th December 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence 9:03 pm, 14th December 2020

I thank my noble friend for raising a very important point. I also pay tribute to her role as chairman of the International Relations and Defence Committee and to its very positive and useful report, The UK and Sub-Saharan Africa: Prosperity, Peace and Development Co-Operation. My noble friend was in discussion with the FCDO. I think she received a fairly full letter of clarification about the points she felt were not addressed. I hope that has gone some way towards reassuring her of the Government’s good intent to make a positive contribution in this region of Africa.

Preparation and equipment are very important. There has been analysis of the tasks the UK contingent will conduct on mission, particularly the terrain and the threat they will face. For example, the deploying vehicles have been specifically selected to address these singular and challenging demands. There will be a number of vehicle types used for different tasks. They have previously been tested on operations and will include the Foxhound, Ridgback, Coyote and Jackal. When I read these, I wondered whether we were talking about a zoo, but we are talking about mechanical devices on wheels that will clearly be a very important support to our forces out in Mali. These vehicles have been chosen for a specific purpose. The analysis identified these types of vehicles as being most appropriate for the terrain and the tasks faced.

Our Armed Forces are professional and well trained. This is a United Nations mission, so they are under the command of Lieutenant General Gyllensporre, who is the Swedish commanding officer. I say to the noble Baroness that, yes, previous conflicts have identified the particular challenges of operating in difficult terrain—in coping with extremes of heat or cold—and lessons have been learned from that. I reassure my noble friend that our Armed Forces and their commanding officers are very mindful of that before asking troops to deploy to any region in the world.