Terrorist groups emerged in the region of North Mali demanding the strict application of Sharia, the Islamic law, and the establishment of an Islamic state by means of violence; the insufficiency of the Malian army to handle the following coup d’état sounded the alarm of war and the eventual end of the national state.[i] It was then that France intervened “in support of” and “at the request of” Bamako’s government, whilst the global political and humanitarian concern lies with the crisis in the Middle East and Syria. “Hollande’s War” is a reality and has begun in Mali. Bamako and Bangui are the touchstones of the French President’s intention to finish once and for all with “Françafrique” and start a new partnership with African countries based on mutual respect[ii]. Apart from François Hollande though, what is the EU’s intention en bloc? Is there a common EU operational plan for managing the Malian crisis?
As already happened in Libya, military operations are left to the initiative of single countries; in this case France. The EU is planning to intervene in a second moment and only with a training mission. Currently there are three main missions on the ground[iii]. Firstly, there is the French “Serval” military mission. France, making use of its first strike capacity took military action within the framework of the UN Security Council’s Resolutions 2071 and 2085 in order to defend the territorial integrity and restore the state’s authority within the occupied territory. As far as the “Serval” operation is concerned, there will be no direct help and no military help at all from the EU, but some countries will contribute bilaterally, as usual.
Secondly, there is the short-term “Misma” mission, the intervention force of the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) which is financed by the EU in a communal frame – otherwise the mission deployment would be impossible- and – from which both the EU and France have abstained from providing military assistance. The EU will directly be engaged mostly by providing financial and logistics resources via the Peace Facility for Africa[iv]. The EU can further supply communication equipment and satellites lacking from the African Blue Berets.
Last but not least, on 17th January, the EU has established the Common Security and Defence Policy mission, “EUTM Mali” (EU training mission in Mali). EUTM Mali has no combat vocation and therefore should be distinguished from the French one.
The EUTM Mali mission is intended to help the military capacity of the Malian Armed Forces and will provide military training as well as train and advise the Malian Armed Forces on command and control, logistics and human resources. In addition, it will train and advise on international humanitarian law, the protection of civilians and human rights. The mission has started on 18th February and will last for 15 months with a budget of € 12.3 million. EUTM Mali is led by the French Brigadier General François Lecointre[v].
As already mentioned the bulk of military operations are left to France, which is the leading nation of the “Serval” operation. A total of 4.000 French soldiers, 4 Rafale fighters, 3 Mirage 2000D, more than one Mirage F1 CR, Gazelle HOT and Gazelle canon attack helicopters, two C-135F aerial refueling are currently engaged in this conflict; and the list goes on[vi]vi. After all it is about Africa, a domestic affair for France. Despite the French leadership though, this is not a solo endeavor and France has its allies at its side.
The UK government has offered a roll-on roll-off ferry to help heavy equipment be transported to the French army and provided them with two C-17 military transport aircrafts for logistics and material support and a Royal Air Force Sentinell surveillance aircraft[vii]. Additionally, the British military commitment to Mali and West Africa is likely to pass 400 troops within a matter of weeks, but in no way will assume a combat role. Following the British example, the operation gained its international nature with the Danish participation by sending a transport aircraft C-130 “Hercules”[viii]. Germany on the other hand, has already deployed two Transall C-160 aircrafts for logistical support, and is willing to further provide political, medical and humanitarian support as well. Angela Merkel’s clear intention is to support the mission against the jihadists not only with transport aircraft and training assistance, but also with supplies for African troops[ix].
Belgian Defence offered France two transport aircrafts C-130 “Hercules” and two medical helicopters Agusta 109 (which, on 15th Mars, will pass under EU flag to support the medical evacuation mission), while Italy and Spain offered logistics in the form of 2 and 1 “C-130 Hercules” respectively; Spain is said to support the French mission with an air base if necessary but there is currently not option for soldiers’ deployment on the table. Sweden also participated in the operation with a C-17 transport aircraft, while the Royal Netherlands Air Force is also at the disposal of the French administration for air transport and logistics purposes providing two KDC-10s, one DC-10 and four C-130 Hercules, but for operating to countries bordering Mali, not in Mali itself[x]. Among the non-European states supporting the French initiative we find Canada and the United Arab Emirates, which offered 4 C-17 in total and the U.S offering technical support from the early beginning and is now/ sending Predator drones to Niger[xi].
The countries’ contribution mentioned above is inscribed within a bilateral framework of cooperation with France. On the other hand, according to the official announcement on 17th January, ten EU countries are to participate in EUTM Mali (UK, France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Cyprus, Estonia, Slovenia and Hungary), whereas, according to Lecointre, at least 16 of the EU’s 27 members will take part each funding its own contingent as the EU will not provide any equipment[xii]. Particularly, the EUTM will run two-month trainings for four battalions of 650 to 700 troops each, whilst a total of 200 instructors backed up by some 300 protection and support troops will be on the ground by mid-March and then launch the training courses. The UK will further contribute 40 personnel, of which 33 will carry out artillery and infantry training, while the Republic of Ireland will deploy six infantry trainers, as well[xiii]. Poland had also announced its participation in the EU mission by sending up to 20 military instructors to train the Malian army. Cyprus has also confirmed the offer of 2.400 Zastava 7.62 mm, the Yugoslav Kalashnikovs, which henceforth will equip both the Cypriot and the Malian army as well[xiv]xiv.
As far as the “military protection” part of the EU mission is concerned, it is divided into two sectors; the first is situated in Bamako, principally manned by troops of the Czech Republic and the second is in Koulikoro base essentially staffed by the French troops[xv]. Spain has also reassured that it will participate in the mission with 30 soldiers. Another important component of the EUTM mission is medical support. Thereby, for the medical evacuation mission at least 20 German soldiers will be deployed in the Koulikoro base, whereas Austrian, Hungarian and Bulgarian troops will man the base in Bamako.
In the end, apart from the counting of the soldiers and elements deployed and to be deployed in the mission, what we should keep in mind is that the Sahel region is considered to be a serious security matter for Europe and for France. It is the fear of seeing the international jihad moving from the Afghanistan-Pakistan zone to Sahara and West Africa regions. However, Sahel is not like Afghanistan and nobody desires a “Sahelistan”. France cannot allow North African jihadists to threaten its energy investments in the region of Niger. Meanwhile, America, after a decade’s presence in Middle East, is now resolved to avoid wars that never end; that is the other thing that we should keep in mind. The war in Mali is a just war because it is so for those who need it [xvi]; in other words for France. But now that the US prefer to keep a low profile and abstain from any new wars in the “Muslim world”, France will experience the limits of its material capacities and will test its strategies and even more its alliances. Nevertheless, in such a security-threatening international context the most important question concerning the EU is: where are the European battle groups in this EU training mission à la française?
[i] Boubacar S. Traoré, founder and director of Agriglob Conseil group, “Les Maliens ont cru à la fin de leur pays”, article published on newspaper ‘Le Monde’, n° 21150, 18/1/2013;
[ii] ‘Le Monde.fr’, “François Hollande à Dakar : Le temps de la Françafrique est révolu”, 12/10/2012, published on 13/10/2012, http://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2012/10/12/hollande-exprime-sa-grande-confiance-dans-le-senegal-et-l-afrique_1774886_3212.html;
[iii] Apart from the ongoing, it would be additionally helpful to further reinforce the “EUCAP Sahel Niger” mission, and set up a border control mission in Libya, as well. For the “EUCAP Sahel Niger” see http://www.consilium.europa.eu/media/1704249/fact_sheet_sahel_coordinated9_july.pdf;
[iv] Martin Banks, “EU announces additional aid and troops for Mali”, The Parliament.com, 30/1/2013, http://www.theparliament.com/latest-news/article/newsarticle/eu-announces-additional-aid-and-troops-for-mali/#.UQl1ab-IDUM
[v] Council of the EU, “EU training mission in Mali established”, 17/1/2013, http://consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/134748.pdf;
[vii] Kitty Donaldson, “UK Aids France by Boosting Mali Support Force”, 29/1/2013, http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-29/u-k-aids-france-by-boosting-mali-support-force.html, and, James Cusick on ‘the independent’, 29/1/2013, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/gamble-for-africa-mali-mission-sucks-in-400-british-troops-8471079.html;
[viii] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, “The Danish Government proposed Danish support for the French led military intervention in Mali”, 14/1/2013, http://um.dk/en/news/newsdisplaypage/?newsID=5805DA27-91F6-46ED-886C-965FB1C531FF;
[ix] The Federal Government, “Assistance for Mali” on the rubric for West Africa, 23/1/2013, http://www.bundesregierung.de/Content/EN/Artikel/2013/01/2013-01-17-mali-eu-mission.html;
[x] Nicolas Gros-Verheyde, “Serval manque des avions ravitailleurs. Bilan des moyens alliés engagés”, 26/1/2013, ‘B2’, http://www.bruxelles2.eu/zones/sahel/serval-manque-des-avions-ravitailleurs.html;
[xii] Global Post, “EU to train over 2,500 Malian soldiers from April: general”, 20/02/2013, http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130220/eu-train-over-2500-malian-soldiers-april-general;
[xiv] Nicolas Gros-Verheyde, “Chypre offre près de 2 400 fusils d’assaut à l’armée malienne”, 28/1/2013, ‘B2’, http://www.bruxelles2.eu/zones/sahel/chypre-offre-pres-de-2400-fusils-dassaut-a-larmee-malienne.html;
[xv] Nicolas Gros-Verheyde, « Force protection pour EUTM Mali : les Français ne seront pas seuls », 13/02/2013, ‘B2’, http://www.bruxelles2.eu/zones/sahel/force-protection-pour-eutm-mali-les-francais-ne-seront-pas-seuls.html;
[xvi] (According to the Just war theory, a state has the right to go to war when the following criteria are met: just cause (serious human rights violation, genocides), good intention (intention to put an end to the human sufferings), last resort (after having been through every non-military option), proportionality of the means deployed (its extend, duration and intensity should be at the necessary minimum to achieve the goal of protecting human life), reasonable perspectives (the consequences of the military action should not be worse than the ones of the non-action.) There are other criteria as well for justifying a war but these are the ones which are questionable for the French intervention in Mali), for a more profound analysis see: Jean-Jacques Roche, “Mali : une intervention sans doute nécessaire, mais pas nécessairement juste”, ‘Le Monde.fr’, 24/01/2013, published on 25/01/2013, http://www.lemonde.fr/idees/article/2013/01/24/mali-une-intervention-sans-doute-necessaire-mais-pas-necessairement-juste_1822123_3232.html;
Photo credit: eutmmali.eu