EU considers sending 200 troops to train Mali army


From Sebastian Moffett, Reuters:  The European Union is considering sending about 200 troops to train Mali’s army to retake the Islamist-held north, but is not willing to deploy them in battle, EU officials said on Tuesday.

Fears are growing in Europe that the African country could turn into a platform for terrorist attacks, after Islamist fighters seized two-thirds of its territory earlier this year.

"There is a willingness among member states to put boots on the ground – but only on the parade ground," one of the EU officials said. "I haven’t heard from member states a willingness to put people in the field. . . ."

EU leaders said at a summit on October 19 that the Mali crisis was an "immediate threat" to Europe. Foreign ministers had called four days earlier for the EU diplomatic service to draw up a plan to help Mali’s military.

Three such plans have been under consideration, said an EU official: help only with training; training plus reform of the army’s structure; or both of these, plus mentoring.

The third scenario envisaged sending EU troops into combat with Malian troops. But member states are not willing to risk sending their troops into combat, said the official.

Instead, EU member states had decided that a combination of training and restructuring was the best option. Roughly 200 trainers, protected by a security force of a similar size, might be involved, said another EU official. . . .

Six French hostages are being held by the Islamists. President Francois Hollande is said to believe there is a risk that al Qaeda’s North African arm, AQIM, is cementing its base in the West African state, creating a launch pad for an attack on French soil.  (photo: Adama Diarra/Reuters)

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