EU eyes military role in Mali

On October 12, 2012 by stratagem

Source: Times of Malta

The EU is planning to send military trainers to help Mali’s army oust rebels and Islamic extremists controlling the north of the country, according to EU sources and a draft document obtained by AFP yesterday.

The two-page document detailing an EU response to the Mali crisis calls for “planning work on a potential military mission within the framework of the Common Security and Defence Policy to be pursued and deepened urgently”.

Planning should be based “notably on a crisis management concept relating to the reorganisation and training of the Malian defence forces”.

The document, agreed by ambassadors of the 27-nation bloc, requires the approval of foreign ministers meeting for talks in Luxembourg on Monday.

“The situation in the Sahel is not looking good,” said a senior EU official close to the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity. “If we don’t take action it will only get worse.”

As France calls for international military intervention, sources said that up to 150 military trainers could be involved in getting Malian forces into offensive mode.

“We have an ungoverned space under the control of terrorists, with narco-trafficking and smuggling of all kinds,” the EU official said. “We need to help Mali with a real threat of force that could be effective to force negotiations.”

“A credible threat of force – that’s what’s lacking,” he insisted.

Different ideas are currently under examination ahead of Monday’s Luxembourg talks, aimed at signing off on an accord before a key meeting in Bamako five days later.

At those talks on October 19, members of the West African regional body ECOWAS, the African Union, the EU, the UN and Mali’s neighbours are hoping to thrash out a political and military strategy to end the crisis.

Another well-informed diplomat said several EU proposals were on the table, the most likely being the quick dispatch of some 150 senior army trainers.

One scenario is for sending EU instructors to work alongside the Mali military, Afghan-style, as its soldiers march north, said the diplomat, who also asked to remain anonymous.

“We need to offer swift training for the Malian army, and we need to act quickly,” he said. “There has to be a military response …to gain reasonable control of the terrain.”

There was wide backing across the EU for action on Mali, sources said.

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