News / Europe

Europe Mulls Options in Mali

Europe Mulls Next Step as French Troops Launch Mali Operationi
X
January 16, 2013 8:08 PM
France has launched a ground assault in Mali that will likely put its troops in direct combat against Islamist militants in the north of the country. As its soldiers headed toward the action on Wednesday, France's European neighbors mulled how best to give their own support in the escalating conflict. Although European foreign ministers are to meet Thursday, Selah Hennessy reports from London that experts say they are unlikely to join France in combat.
Selah Hennessy
France has launched a land assault in Mali that will put its soldiers in direct combat with Islamist militants in the north of the country.  As its soldiers headed north on Wednesday, France's European neighbors mulled how best to give their own support in the escalating conflict.

European foreign ministers are due to meet Thursday to discuss the crisis but experts say they are unlikely to join France in direct combat.

France has 800 troops already on the ground in Mali. Their numbers are set to swell to 2,500 - a sign that France is wading deeper into the military conflict now going on in its former colony.

French army soldiers stand on armored vehicles as they leave Bamako and start their deployment to the north of Mali as part of the "Serval" operations, January 15, 2013.French army soldiers stand on armored vehicles as they leave Bamako and start their deployment to the north of Mali as part of the "Serval" operations, January 15, 2013.
x
French army soldiers stand on armored vehicles as they leave Bamako and start their deployment to the north of Mali as part of the "Serval" operations, January 15, 2013.
French army soldiers stand on armored vehicles as they leave Bamako and start their deployment to the north of Mali as part of the "Serval" operations, January 15, 2013.
But so far it is unclear what help France will get from its European neighbors. Logistical support has begun to trickle in.

Belgium sent a C-130 transport plane to Africa’s west coast on Wednesday with 35 soldiers onboard - another C-130 and two medical helicopters are also on their way.

On Tuesday a British RAF C-17 cargo plane, loaded with military equipment, landed at Mali's airport in Bamako. Germany, Italy and Denmark are also giving logistical support.

On Tuesday European Union Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said stability in Mali is important for the whole of Europe.

"We are directly impacted by the situation there. Because terrorist groups based in northern Mali use this territory that they control for all kinds of traffic, for drugs and arms smuggling," she said. "They've taken many hostages, many of them originated from European member states. So under no circumstances can we be indifferent to the situation."

She said the European Union (EU) will speed up and adapt plans that were made in December to train Mali’s military for battle with Islamist rebels.

Hundreds of European troops are set to help in the training - but the conflict’s recent escalation raises questions over whether European troops will be brought onto the battlefield, says Paul Melly, a French Africa expert with Britain's Chatham House.

Foreign Troop Commitments to Mali

  • France 2,000 on the ground, 500 more committed
  • Chad to send 2,000
  • Nigeria to send 1,200
  • Benin to send 650
  • Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal, Togo have committed 500 each
  • Guinea and Ghana are also sending troops
  •  
"The Europeans were going to be working alongside the Malian units they were training," he said. "They were not going to be just back in training bases - even under the original plan. And now the Malian army could well face situations where it is in combat pretty soon and if it’s got European advisors alongside they may themselves also be in the theater but we do not know exactly, the details have yet to be confirmed.”

The Islamist militants seized control of northern Mali after a March coup toppled the Malian government and left a temporary power vacuum. 

​The Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, has been planning an intervention force for months, with the support of the United Nations.

Melly says those troops - not more from Europe - are what is needed.

"I’m not sure that a shortage of European soldiers on the ground is really the issue," he said. "The French have indicated plans to deploy up to 2,500 but they want, everybody wants West African forces to then take over a large part of the actual military operation on the ground because that’s what had originally been planned.”

ECOWAS Chair Alassane Ouattara said Wednesday that the group wants to deploy troops quickly.

  • A French soldier holds his weapon in the village of Sarakala, Mali, January 18, 2013.
  • Goats walk past a French military convoy refuelling in Markala, Mali, January 18, 2013.
  • People cross a strategic bridge over a dam on the Niger River secured by French forces in Markala, Mali, January 18, 2013.
  • A Malian soldier checks the identity of people crossing a strategic bridge over a dam on the Niger River secured by French forces in Markala, Mali, January 18, 2013.
  • French military vehicles drive to the north of Mali, at an undisclosed location, January 16, 2013. (French Army Communication Audiovisual Office)
  • French helicopters are towed to the military side of Bamako's airport, Mali, January 16, 2013.
  • A motorcyclist waves his support as French troops in two armored personnel carriers drive through Mali's capital Bamako on the road to Mopti, January 15, 2013.
  • French soldiers walk past a hangar they are staying at the Malian army air base in Bamako, January 14, 2013.
  • French soldiers test equipment at the Malian air base in Bamako, January 14, 2013.
  • French air force technicians work on a Mirage F-1 fighter jet at the Malian army air base in Bamako, January 14, 2013.
  • A French soldiers lies on his mattress in a hangar at the Malian army air base in Bamako, January 14, 2013.

You May Like

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid