I recently returned from a trip to Burkina Faso, where I had the opportunity to travel alongside our US military partners as they assessed local needs, met with Burkinabé counterparts, and provided training to their partner force.
Overall, I was incredibly impressed by the Burkinabés. They are one of the most disciplined, competent, and motivated partner forces I have seen in my travels across Africa. However, numbering only around 12,000 and with minimal materiel assets, they are stretched thin by the current threat coming across their northern border with Mali.
As we travelled north from the capital of Ouagadougou, towns grew smaller and further apart while the countryside grew noticeably drier and rockier. After a few hours of driving, we made our first stop in Dori at the regional military headquarters. Here, we met with the Regional Commander and stopped for the night.
The next day, we travelled onward crossing into the Zone Rouge, the restricted northern portion of the country where risk of militant incursion is particularly high – the first US military/government element to travel to the area. Stopping at a forward operating base in the town of Gorom-Gorom, we took the opportunity to assess the situation, meet with the commander of the unit in charge of patrolling the Zone Rouge – the 11th Regiment d’Infanterie Commando (RIC) – and pick up new security escorts. From this point on, we were in contested territory where even our Burkinabé escorts were on high alert.
After leaving Gorom-Gorom, we traveled to our northernmost and most remote stop, Markoye. At this outpost, close to the borders with both Mali and Niger, the US team and I took the opportunity to donate some much-needed metal detectors. These devices and the training the team provided to the troops at the outpost will be invaluable in the 11th RIC’s efforts to counter violent extremism, protect themselves and the local population, and prevent the smuggling of weapons and explosives through the area. We first told you about this effort here.
My time in Burkina Faso was short but I learned a lot and left heartened by the dedication of the Burkinabés and commitment of our US Army partners. Despite materiel limitations, the host nation forces are vigilant and diligent while their US advisors work to build their skills and capacity. In this setting, the addition of a little support from SoA can translate into huge returns.
Efforts like this one are made possible by your generous donations and the ongoing support of partners like Garrett. Thank you for all you do to enable us to fill the gaps and local needs identified by our US partners on the ground.
All the best,