An askari was a local soldier serving in the armies of the European colonial powers in Africa, particularly in the African Great Lakes, Northeast Africa and Central Africa. The word is used in this sense in English, as well as in German, Italian, Urdu and Portuguese. In French, the word is used only in reference to native troops outside the French colonial empire. The designation is still in occasional use today to informally describe police, gendarmerie and security guards.
During the period of the European colonial empires in Africa, locally recruited soldiers were employed by Italian, British, Portuguese, German and Belgian colonial armies. They played a crucial role in the conquest of the various colonial possessions, and subsequently served as garrison and internal security forces. During both World Wars, askari units also served outside their colonies of origin, in various parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.