The United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operation in Mali (MINUSMA) has become among the deadliest in UN history, suffering from attacks by violent extremists and terrorists. There are strong calls to give UN peacekeeping operations more robust mandates and equip them with the necessary capabilities, guidelines and training to be able to take on limited stabilisation and counter-terrorism tasks. This article conceptually develops UN counter-terrorism operations as a heuristic device, and compares this with the mandate and practices of MINUSMA. It examines the related implications of this development, and concludes that while there may be good practical as well as short-term political reasons for moving in this direction, the shift towards UN counter-terrorism operations will undermine the UN’s international legitimacy, its role as an impartial conflict arbiter, and its tools in the peace and security toolbox more broadly, such as UN peacekeeping operations and special political missions.
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