British soldiers deployed to Mali are ready to start "operations directly contributing to the UN", according to the Commanding Officer for the UK Task Group in the country.
The British troops began joining the 18,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali in December.
The west Africa country has been on the brink of chaos in recent times, including a coup that overthrew its president and prime minister, continued struggles against Islamic extremism and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lieutenant Colonel Tom Robinson, Commanding Officer of the Light Dragoons, said the UK's peacekeeping force in Mali is "highly trained, very well-equipped and well-armed".
"We are well rehearsed and practised, and I'm more than confident that anyone who decides to ambush us or try and take us on toe-to-toe is going to come off second best."
Alongside the threat of terrorism, Lt Col Robinson also pointed out other threats to people’s "broader security".
"Things like access to water, resources, food, the ability to be able to get your goods to market, to travel freely on the road," he said.
"These are also real concerns that locals have out here that we are here to address."
The British troops deployed under the UN peacekeeping mission have now carried out their first patrol, which involved 200 personnel and 60 vehicles.
Lt Col Robinson said it was an opportunity "to really understand" how his troops can operate in Mali.
"We've trained in the UK, we prepared for a long time to make sure that we're ready," he said. "But there is nothing like driving out of camp for the first time.
"Testing your vehicles on... African scrub, meeting Malian people and really getting that proper feel for what this country is all about and how we can help."
He said it is "really important" that British personnel are part of the UN mission to stop Mali becoming an "ungoverned space".
"The big picture is that wherever you have instability in a country… as poor as Mali is, and it is at the very bottom of the Global Development Index, you will always be at greater risk of instability," he said.
He added that if the UK’s commitment to Mali and the UN operation "counters that instability" it will prevent it "spreading through the region throughout the Sahel and into north Africa".
In June last year, the UK extended its military support to the separate French-led counter-terrorism mission in the country.
Last month, an RAF Chinook delivered heavy equipment in Mali, with the aim of extending French and Malian forces’ operational range as part of Operation Barkhane.
Cover image: British soldier deployed on UN peacekeeping operation, known as MINUSMA, in Mali (Picture: MOD).