Britain may be invited to send Special Forces to Ghana after it was forced to withdraw all of its 300 peacekeepers from Mali in the face of bands of Russian mercenaries and jihadist groups, The Telegraph understands.
British ministers will this week fly to Ghana to hammer out a new security agreement.
It is unclear if the move is a face-saving operation in the wake of the mission in Mali being shut down or something more significant as British forces already train troops in Ghana.
Three years ago, Britain announced a major ‘pivot’ to the jihadist-stricken Sahel region on Europe’s southern flank to great fanfare at home. New embassies were opened. Hundreds of millions of pounds were promised in humanitarian and military aid. And 300 crack troops were sent deep into Mali to scout for gunmen allied to Islamic State and Al Qaeda.
This was post-Brexit Global Britain in action, ministers said. But now that policy, like the land on which it played out, has turned to dust. Thousands of French troops were chased out of the same region by the Malian military junta they were supposed to protect in August. And now the Brits are following suit.
Last week the UK announced it was withdrawing all of its troops from Mali, which until only a few months ago, Whitehall officials were describing as “the new frontline of the war on terror”.
Former Africa Minister Rory Stewart, who championed the so-called “pivot to the Sahel” under Prime Minister Theresa May, was scathing about the real purpose of this week’s Ghana trip, suggesting it was no more than a face-saving operation.
“We struggled to maintain 300 troops in Mali, partly because it cost perhaps as much as a hundred million pounds from tightly stretched budgets,” he told The Telegraph. “I fear that the ‘pivot to Ghana and Burkina Faso’ is largely a way of excusing our retreat from the Sahel and will ultimately add up to less than people pretend.”
“We have been worrying about Burkina Faso for some time. But without an embassy there or any significant investment, there is a real limit to what the UK can do,” said Mr. Stewart.