In 2012, Tuareg and other peoples in northern Mali’s Azawad region started an insurgency in the north under the banner of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad. After some initial successes and complaints from the Malian Army that it was ill-equipped to fight the insurgents, who had benefited from an influx of heavy weaponry from the 2011 Libyan civil war as well as other sources, elements of the army staged a military coup d’état on 21 March 2012. Following the coup, the rebels made further advances to capture the three biggest cities in the north: Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal. Following economic sanctions and a blockade by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on the country, a deal, brokered in Burkina Faso by President Blaise Compaoré under the auspices of ECOWAS, was signed that would see Amadou Sanogo cede power to Dioncounda Traoré to assume the presidency in an interim capacity until an election is held.
On 1 July 2013, 6,000 of a future total of 12,600 UN peacekeeping troops officially took over responsibility for patrolling the country’s north from France and the ECOWAS’ International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA). The group is expected to play a role in the 2013 Malian presidential election.The force is the third largest UN peacekeeping force in operation in the world.
The Netherlands had the obligation to support the operation in Mali, in order to stop or minimise fundings and weapons being brought to Europe through Mali. The first tour was done by the dutch Army special forces in order to gain intel on the complex situation in Mali.
103SF started their operation as a deep ground recon mission, using Gao Int. Airport as their base of operations. Using both helicopters and ground vehicles they mapped all movements and hideouts they found. Additonally they supported other MINUSMA troops as QRF.
Later the unit moved from Gao to Kidal as a combat patrol and started local combat Recon patrols.
The last operation done by 103SF was a deep insertion into hostile territory where they operated from a hide and cleared several large caves.
103SF was then relieved from their tour by NL MARSOF.