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Mali: three operations in one

(BRUSSELS2) The Malian army (re)training operation - which is being prepared at European Union level - may seem limited in itself. But it is only one of the facets of the multifaceted intervention that the international community (and the European Union) is trying to put in place against the grip of rebel and "terrorist" groups in northern Mali. A military, diplomatic and political action.

The European training operation of the Malian army

The EUTM Mali training operation is largely based on the know-how acquired during the training of the Somali army, which has shown some success, and on the previous presence of several of the Member States (France, Germany ...) or participants in the European operation (Canada). Its primary vocation is not to regain a foothold in the north of Mali. But to train the Malian army to avoid an even deeper disintegration, to restructure it, to then "propel" it. And its objective is just as much medium-term as it is short-term. The decision-making process within the EU could be completed quite quickly, between January and February. It will then be necessary to deploy the mission – which will take a few weeks – and the training – which will last 3-4 months – will therefore not be effective before the autumn.

The ECOWAS operation

The ECOWAS operation - authorized by the UN at the end of December - comes in addition according to a similar tempo. Even if the number of its forces has not yet been made official (approximately 3500 men), MISMA (International Support Mission in Mali under African leadership) will have to support the Malian forces first in securing southern Mali and then in reconquest of the north. This will not be obvious given the extent of the area to be reconquered (equivalent to 1,5 times France). This force should therefore receive a “ important » logistical, intelligence and material support from several European or NATO countries, on a bilateral basis - a contribution requested by the UN from its Member States -. France and the United States have already confirmed such aid. The European Union should also provide financial support for this intervention through its "Peace Facility for Africa" ​​as well as support in the planning of the operation (European soldiers are at the Union's HQ Africa and ECOWAS for this purpose). The operation should not start before the fall. By the time the ECOWAS force is in place, it will not be not before September or October 2013 explains a diplomat from an EU member state to B2. " This should allow the political option to be put in place. »

Discreet operations: intelligence, closing of access roads, disorganization of rear bases

The third operation is more discreet, even secret. It is a question of collecting a maximum of information on the rebel movements. Surveillance planes (Atlantic 2 type) or aerial photography (Mirage...) and drones are very interesting here. It is also a question of cutting off the supply routes to the movements holding northern Mali. It is the Algerian and Mauritanian authorities who are essentially concerned by this request from the Malian authorities as well as Niger. Which is not easy in such desert areas. But it is also a question of cutting off the rear bases of the terrorist organizations. The arrest of Salah Gasmi, number 2 of AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb) in Algeria in mid-December follows this logic.

The political aspect operations in Mali

The political aspect is just as important as the military aspect. It revolves around three aspects: political dialogue, the overhaul of the Malian state and aid for projects. The European Union has a relatively effective "carrot" here: its budget and development aid, which is not negligible.

Political dialogue

There is the political dialogue on which everyone is counting, in fact, to resolve the Malian crisis. It is a question of carrying out informal discussions with the various leaders of the rebel groups to show them that it is better to be on the side of the handle, of power. It is in this sense that the rise in power of military intervention, slow—some might call it gesticulation—takes on its meaning. " The military offensive must take place in a permissive climate and not unite all opponents against it. summarizes our diplomat.

The overhaul of the Malian state

This is an aspect that is often overlooked. But the state in Mali has lately shown only a democratic façade, capable of reassuring Europeans and the international community, and a rather questionable effectiveness. The overhaul of the Malian state is therefore just as fundamental a question as the reconquest of the north of the country. " We have to start all over again, rewrite a new institutional contract”. A "road map" has been drawn up. And the European authorities have conditioned the resumption of development aid, a major contribution for the Malian State. The EU has a strong argument...

The weight of European aid

The European development aid budget – under the EDF, European Development Fund – represents, on average per year, for the country, just under 100 million euros (*), excluding humanitarian aid. Which is not a trifle, especially when compared to the Malian state budget for 2012: 2,26 billion euros originally, reduced to 1,5 billion euros, following drastic budget cuts after the coup d'etat which saw international aid decrease!

A real financial embargo

Since March 22, EU development cooperation has been suspended. Only remain actions of “ direct support to the population” (food crisis), humanitarian aid and related actions to the democratic transition ". Under humanitarian aid, the EU has released 102 million euros. Budget support remains suspended. If the transition roadmap is adopted and a timetable for elections set, the EU could " gradually resume cooperation as announced by the Foreign Ministers of the 27 during their meetings. Nearly 250 million euros could be released for new projects, with the possible resumption of budgetary aid.

(*) 583 million euros are planned for the period 2008-2013 (978 million euros for the period 2003-2013). It is indeed an amount for the period and not per year (as I have seen taken up in certain press articles).
Correction made to the Mali budget (small comma error 🙂 )

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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