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The EUFOR Tchad operation reaches its initial operational capacity

(BRUSSELS2) The European military operation in Chad and the Central African Republic (Eufor Tchad RCA) reached its initial operational capacity on 15 March. A symbolic, legal and operational passage of importance. It is in fact from this date that the 12-month period set by the United Nations resolution (resolution no. 1778) begins for the presence of the European force responsible for protecting refugees from Darfur and displaced persons, as well as NGOs, in these two countries.

NEARLY 1700 MEN ON SITE

Of the 3700-3800 men who must be deployed, more than 40% of the necessary force is already in place, deployed or waiting to be deployed. Are thus present, according to a last count established at Eufor, 1672 men from seven European countries: 1035 French (including 200 established in the Central African Republic), 203 Swedes, 100 Italians, 150 Austrians, 60 Irish, 60 Finns, and 20 Belgians .

A detachment of 19 men from the Field Accommodation Unit (FAU) arrived in Chad on March 14. They will be responsible for erecting a specific camp for the headquarters of the European force (Eufor) near the airport in the Chadian capital. “A necessity” explains an observer who was able to see the situation at the airport firsthand. “Between the camp of the Chadian soldiers, the French soldiers of Operation Epervier and those of Operation Eufor, there is a disturbing connection.” Establishing a distinct camp will put an end to this confusion. “ This is a new mission accepted by the Belgian government » a spokesperson for the Belgian Ministry of Defense confirmed to me.

In Sweden, the government finally agreed, at the request of General Nash, to leave its force longer than planned. Instead of the 4 to 6 weeks initially planned – a duration, also criticized in Sweden, as too short compared to the cost of sending a mission – the Minister of Defense, Sten Tolgfors, confirmed before the Riksdag (parliament Swedish), on March 5, that the Swedish force will remain until the end of August. The Left and the Greens would also have liked Swedish soldiers to remain in Chad for the rest of 2008 "until a UN force is placed to take responsibility for security". But Minister Tolgfors rejected this request as unrealistic, mentioning that an extension of this length would cost more than 300 million crowns (approximately 31,8 million euros) compared to an additional cost of around 46 million crowns (approximately 4,86 million euros) for this extension.

INSTALLATION STAGE

Eufor is today “in the installation phase. Reconnaissance began on February 18,” explains a Eufor official. The mission of the European soldiers will be exercised from the base camps or “decentralized camps” of Eufor, with patrols, the prepositioning of troops and helicopter means, the collection of information”, explains an official of Eufor. There are twelve refugee camps and IDP camps. "So with 3700 men, we cannot have men in every place" where there are refugees or displaced persons.

Between 300 and 400 European soldiers are currently stationed in the capital N'Djamena, either at Eufor headquarters or in transit. The rest of the workforce (about 1200) has already headed east, not far from the Sudanese border: Farchana to the east of Abéché and to Abéché itself. The French detachment stationed in Birao (Central African Republic) came under Eufor command on March 8. It includes an infantry unit, an engineer unit and a field hospital.

FIRST “EUFOR” AIRPLANE

On the air transport side, the Eufor force was to “touch” its first autonomous means of transport, the Portuguese C130 plane, on Saturday March 15. In terms of helicopters, Eufor does not yet have its own means but has, as needed – confides a military specialist – the helicopter means of the French special forces” (Cougar).

Russian helicopters

The issue of helicopters was also at the center of discussions between French and Russians on March 11 in Paris, during a Franco-Russian Cooperation Council on security issues. After hesitation, the Russians officially confirmed their participation in the operation. “The president decided that a group of Russian helicopters would participate in the operation in Chad,” declared – at the end of the meeting – Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. Between six and eight Mi-8 or Mi-17 helicopters could thus reach Chad. It remains to “establish the legal framework” – and financial – for this cooperation, as specified by the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Lavrov. On the Eufor side, we are optimistic but cautious, wishing to see this political announcement “realized” as soon as possible.

(published in Europolitique, 15 March 2008)

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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