Security force capacity and professionalism in the Sahel

Led by Øystein H. Rolandsen

Feb 2020 – Dec 2022

Sadou Soloke, governor of Agadez, Niger, walks with Col. Oumarou Aboubacar, Zone 2 commander, Forces Armees Nigeriennes, and other dignitaries upon the conclusion of an opening ceremony at the Joint Multinational Headquarters for Exercise Flintlock 2018 at Agadez, April 11, 2018. Flintlock is an annual, African-led, integrated military and law enforcement exercise that has strengthened key partner nation forces throughout North and West Africa as well as western Special Operations Forces since 2005. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Mary S. Katzenberger, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne)/Released

This project compares the capacity and professionalism of security forces in Mali and Niger, as well as the G5 Sahel Joint Force, with the aim to enable improvements in mission planning, training, and doctrine concerning future security engagements in the Sahel. This region is increasingly affected by transnational security threats which spill across national borders, such as insurgency, terrorism, uncontrolled migration and illicit trafficking in commodities. The region's security forces' lack of adequate equipment and training have prevented them from responding effectively to these threats.

The EU, US and several European states provide assistance to these security forces, but the implementation of the programmes is severely hampered by the lack of basic, reliable information about the nature and logic of security organisations and the complex relationships between them and how they handle the security threats they face. Security forces in the region often perform tasks that would be unfamiliar to their counterparts from Western Europe. Some are lawfully involved in business activities or play an important role in building civilian infrastructure or providing health services. They may also undertake illicit activities, including corrupt practices, human rights violations or even attempting to seize power through military coups. In addition, in countries such as Mali, former rebels have been integrated into the national armed forces. The security sectors in countries like Mali and Niger are therefore complex and tend to be governed by informal and hidden networks of decision-making. These can be difficult for outsiders to comprehend or navigate.

The project is designed to address this knowledge gap and provide insights and information relevant for the planning of Norway and other European states’ assistance to these forces. The project builds upon and consolidates research by the PRIO team which received funding in 2019 from Norwegian Ministry of Defence for a project on ‘Lessons Learned from Military Capacity Building and Implications for future Norwegian Engagement in the Sahel’.

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