Here’s why I’m deploying to Mali with 300 British soldiers
Flight Lieutenant Nick Morrison-Smith has been studying Mali for two-years. He is the man that will help the British Army and the UN better navigate the social complexities there
Having completed integration training in July of this year, the soldiers of the UK Task Group donned the famous blue UN beret on Salisbury Plain in October as they underwent final pre-deployment assessments.
In what is a predominately British Army deployment, this Flight Lieutenant from the Royal Air Force has a particularly unique role in the task force.
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Flt Lt Nick Morrison-Smith is the Cultural Advisor deploying alongside the UK Task Group to Mali 🇺🇳
Can you introduce yourself for us?
“I’m Flight Lieutenant Nick Morrison-Smith. I’m the Target Audience Analyst and Cultural Advisor deploying to Op NEWCOMBE in Mali.”
What is your role?
“There are two parts to my role in Mali. In the planning phase, I provide information about the local population and how they think and how they would react to our actions. This ensures that the local population are a fundamental part of planning with every mission from the very start.”
“On the execution phase, I will deploy forwards with the task group. This will allow me to further understand the people in more detail, in a real-world situation. But also, it allows me to advise commanders when engaging with the people on how to understand them, how to behave correctly, and to understand their culture.”
Can you tell us about the situation in Mali?
“The situation in Mali is very complex. You have a number of different ethnicities and tribes, who have been interacting with each other for generations. These interactions have changed over time due to a number of factors, predominantly due to climate change and instability in the country.”
“Additionally, to this, there are two Jihadist terrorist armed groups in the country who are not only fighting against the people of Mali, but they are fighting and competing against each other, just like two franchises compete against each other. To further complicate the situation, there’s been a recent coup in the country, so from a governmental level there’s a security vacuum while they start to establish a transitional government in Mali.”
So, its pretty complex right
“Yeah, so you’ve got this melting pot of instability, and what we are going to do as part of the UN mission is to help better understand the ground truth to help the UN provide peace and stability to Mali.”
It’s clearly very dangerous, why are we going?
“I feel with the capabilities and the people we have, there is no safer place to be. The situation in Mali is very complicated and has led to massive amounts of instability in the country. As a result, what happens in one country in West Africa happens in enabling countries, and this reason of instability provides a safe haven for terrorist armed groups. These terrorist armed groups can then project their own power into other countries.”
“We need to be able to prevent these groups from gaining any sort of power in any country. There is so much going one, any one of those factors, the coup, terrorist armed groups, ethnic violence is enough to cause great strain on a country. But in Mali, you have all of that, and it’s very complicated. So, that is why we are going.”
How do you feel to finally be wearing the famous blue beret?
“This exercise has been the first time that we’ve had the blue berets, and putting it on is a very special feeling.”
“It makes you feel not only part of the British military as a whole, but as something bigger as part of the UN. It makes you understand that we are contributing not just to our country, but also alongside other troop-contributing countries from all over the world; it’s something that is bigger than what we have ever done before.”
How do you feel personally about the deployment?
“Personally, I’m very excited to be going out to Mali. I’ve been looking at this country and researching it for the last 18 months to 2 years; to be able to go to the country and see what I’ve learned in reality and to learn in greater detail, to understand the people and the culture and the rich history of the country first hand is a fantastic and unique opportunity.”
What does being a UN peacekeeper mean to you?
“Being part of the UN peacekeeping operation is something special.”
“The British military are world-leaders in warfighting, and when we think about the military and that’s what we think about. But actually, the British military are also world-leaders in peacekeeping, and that is very important and key to the stability of the region.”
As planned and in line with our firm commitment to the UN and global security, later this year 300 military personnel will deploy to the UN mission in Mali where they will help to promote peace and help counter instability.