. Africa News .

African forces face daunting task in Mali intervention
by Staff Writers
Lagos (AFP) Jan 13, 2013

Foreign forces in Mali
Paris (AFP) Jan 13, 2013 - France is using air and ground power in a joint offensive with Malian soldiers launched on January 11 against hardline Islamist groups controlling northern Mali.

French President Francois Hollande said French involvement would last "as long as is necessary".

African nations too rushed on Sunday to begin deploying a 3,300-strong force aimed at helping Mali retake the north. The force was given the go-ahead to deploy by the Economic Community of West African States on Friday but has not yet done so.

Below are details of the military deployment to Mali:


Dozens of French soldiers were dispatched to secure Sevare airport in central Mali.

Another 500 soldiers from France's 21st Marine Infantry Regiment in Frejus, southern France joined First Foreign Cavalry troops brought in from Chad in securing the capital Bamako, according to the defence ministry.

France also deployed 150 soldiers from its Second Marine Infantry in eastern France.

Special operations forces have been called to action, as well, though the number of troops involved was not given.

Lieutenant Damien Boiteux, a French pilot killed when his helicopter was hit in battle on January 12 -- France's only confirmed fatality so far -- was a member of the Special Forces Fourth Helicopter Regiment based in the southwestern city of Pau.

France has a special forces unit set up in Burkina Faso.


France is using six Mirage 2000D and two Mirage F1CR fighter jets from its base in Chad in addition to three C135 refuelling aircraft and other transport planes.

Four Rafale jets bombed the northern city of Gao on Sunday. Other Rafale jets are on standby in France.

Gazelle attack helicopters equipped with Hot (anti-tank) missiles and 20-millimetre canons are flying over the central town of Konna, recaptured on Saturday by France and Mali.

Satellite surveillance has been stepped up using Europe's Pleiades 1B earth observation satellite -- which surveys conflict zones -- that was launched in December.


Nigeria pledged the largest number of troops, 600, while Niger, Burkina Faso, Togo and Senegal have all pledged 500 troops. Benin has promised some 300.

Nigerian commander Major General Shehu Usman Abdulkadir, previously his country's chief of army standards and evaluation, will lead the African force.

Chad has not ruled out sending troops but says both Mali and ECOWAS must define their strategy.

Normally more reticent neighbour Algeria has authorised French warplanes to use its airspace for bombing raids on Mali.

The US military is looking at providing intelligence, aerial refuelling tankers and other support to French forces, including surveillance drones, a US official said Friday, while Britain said it would send a C17 Royal Air Force plane to provide logistical support, but no personnel.

France is also getting support from Denmark and "several other large countries that are providing transport", French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Sunday.

African nations rushed on Sunday to deploy a 3,300-strong force aimed at helping Mali retake its Islamist-controlled north, but questions remained over how they aimed to succeed in the daunting task.

Despite the risks, some African analysts and officials said Sunday there was no other choice but to act since the Al Qaeda-linked extremists and criminal gangs in Mali threatened to spread violence in the region and beyond.

The scramble to send troops came as French forces carried out air strikes in Mali for a third straight day and extended their bombing campaign to the northern strongholds of the Islamist forces.

A push by Islamists further south led to the French assault and resulted in an expedited plan for the African force, which has been approved by the UN Security Council but was not expected to deploy before September.

A clutch of regional nations have pledged nearly 3,000 troops so far for the mission with an expected total of four battalions.

The commander is Nigerian Major General Shehu Usman Abdulkadir, previously his country's chief of army standards and evaluation.

Senior officers from neighbouring countries were expected in Bamako on Sunday to prepare for the arrival of the first troops from the force, whose main organiser is the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States.

"The end goal is to take back the north and then flush out those elements," ECOWAS spokesman Sunny Ugoh said of "terrorists" and criminal gangs in Mali.

But taking back Mali's north, a territory the size of France, from Islamists said to be well-equipped could prove to be daunting.

Some analysts said logistical support, such as France's air power, would continue to be needed and possibly other assistance.

Discussions on the force have also included the possibility of 5,000 Malian troops, but doubts persist over the capabilities of Mali's military.

Algeria's stance has also been a source of speculation, and Malian Prime Minister Diango Cissoko arrived in Algiers on Sunday. The country shares a long border with Mali and its military has experience dealing with Islamist threats.

But while it has pledged support for Mali's regime and signalled it does not oppose foreign intervention, there was no sign Algeria would participate more directly.

Jibrin Ibrahim, head of the Nigeria-based Centre for Democracy and Development, urged quick action from the region, warning the risks of a continued Islamist advance could be catastrophic.

Asked whether 3,300 troops were enough, he said it was less about the number than the strategy employed and continued assistance from Western nations.

"The (Malian) troops on the ground were not very effective, but the fact that France provided aerial cover was what changed the situation on the ground," he said.

"I think the troops on the ground are very important, but that this will only work if it is a genuine international force."

Difficulties have already been encountered by French forces despite success in pushing the Islamists back.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian acknowledged that the unexpected advances made by the Islamists last week had not yet been fully reversed as officials admitted they were proving a tougher adversary than anticipated.

Aides to French President Francois Hollande described the militants as better equipped, armed and trained than expected.

A French military source said they preferred to act alone for the time being rather than mix with the African force as they would lose precious time otherwise, with the eventual goal of combining.

"In any case, this is the time it will take for (the African force) to arrive," the source said. "Afterward we can work in cooperation ..."

Among other countries, Britain has offered support in the form of transport planes and the United States is considering offering surveillance drones.

Germany has defended France's action but ruled out sending troops and warned that Mali's problems could only be solved by political mediation.

West Africa has had previous experience in deploying a multi-national force, particularly with the ECOMOG contingent first deployed in Liberia in 1990. It was both commended for helping bring peace and criticised for rights abuses.

Former Nigerian foreign minister Bolaji Akinyemi said the Mali operation risked raising tensions in the home countries of some participants, particularly Nigeria, which is battling its own insurgency by Islamist extremist group Boko Haram.

Nevertheless, the region must act to put an end to the threat, he said.

"If west African countries don't do anything about it, they will encourage this and it will grow further," he said.



Related Links
Africa News - Resources, Health, Food

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Get Our Free Newsletters
Space - Defense - Environment - Energy - Solar - Nuclear


Central African PM dismissed after ceasefire deal
Bangui, Central African Republic (AFP) Jan 12, 2013
Central African President Francois Bozize on Saturday sacked his prime minister to comply with the terms of a ceasefire deal reached with a rebel coalition during talks in Libreville. Faustin Archange Touadera was dismissed as prime minister in a decree read out on public radio and should be replaced by a member of the opposition. The new prime minister was expected to be appointed later ... read more

Farmland Opportunity Includes 17,687 Great Plains Acres

EU releases all data on GM corn linked to cancer

Lady Beetle Diet Influences Its Effectiveness as Biocontrol Agent

Nuclear fears contaminate sales for Japan farmers

Taiwan mulls shipping water from China as ties improve

Wales, fishermen discuss protection zones

Living cells behave like fluid-filled sponges

Interagency Report Published on Information Required for Short-Term Water Management Decisions

US study warns of extreme heat, more severe storms

Global warming beneficial to ratsnakes

Urgent CO2 cuts may spare millions hardship: report

Climate laws advancing in many countries: survey

First world atlas on renewable energy launched

Major cuts to surging CO2 emissions are needed now, not down the road

Three new state-of-the-art power plants improve efficiency, reduce emissions

Energy independence for India?

California Ethanol Producer Pacific Ethanol Stockton Partners with Edeniq to Expand Production

Tree seeds offer potential for sustainable biofuels

Engineered algae seen as fuel source

Lithuanians recycle Christmas trees into biofuel

Nineteen children among 46 dead in China landslide

Haiti is recovering, leader tells quake ceremony

Philippines to move 100,000 squatters

Hannover Re hit by 261-million-euro loss from Sandy

Beijing choked by third day of hazardous smog

New treatment could combat deadly chemical agents

China pollution anger spills into state media

Italy extends emergency powers for Costa shipwreck

Commodity markets win support from China data

China trade surplus surges despite economic weakness

Canada gold giant ends talks over African assets

Crashed US drone found in Philippines: navy

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement