West Africa - SahelMissions Operations

“Force protection” for EUTM Mali: the French will not be alone (Maj3)

Medical support is not completely resolved, particularly regarding Medevac (medical evacuation). In the photo landing in Sévaré of medical equipment for Belgian helicopters supporting Operation Serval (credit: Belgian Ministry of Defense)

(BRUSSELS2 in Dublin – exclusive) The French will not be alone in providing “force protection” for European trainers deployed in Mali (EUTM Mali). Nothing is official yet. But…

Two countries (Czech Republic and Spain) indicated that they could, subject to certain adaptations, ensure this force protection. An essential point, as recalled by the French Minister of Defense, Jean-Yves Le Drian. It is important that " the French are not alone in performing this function (which is one of the most visible of the mission) he explained to his counterparts during his speech on Tuesday evening (*).

No new force generation meeting

A participant in the meeting confirmed this to B2, indicating that it would probably not be necessary to convene a new force generation conference. THE " last issues that can be resolved within the week ". And the launch decision then taken on February 18 (as planned). On the European side, however, we seem more reserved… And we are awaiting confirmation for the “Medevac” (medical evacuation) part.

“Force protection” device

The Czechs, who have announced that they have capabilities available to the head of mission, General Lecointre, could put about 30 military. They should serve the first six months, confirmed Vlastimil Picek, Czech Deputy Defense Minister, before being replaced by trainers for the second period of the following six months. “ The mission in Mali remains a training mission and our soldiers will not actively participate in hostilities " did he declare. A commitment that aroused the strong thanks of General Lecointre.

The Spanish would also be ready to move, even if it means redeploying certain soldiers within the limit of 50 personnel authorized by the (Spanish) Congress. The Secretary General of Defense, Alejandro Alvargonzález, who represented the minister (on an official trip to Indonesia) confirmed, to my Spanish colleagues at EFE, that a about thirty soldiers would provide “force protection”.

The Protection Force is divided into two geographical sectors where European trainers and experts will be located. Some could be based in Bamako, the Malian capital (Czechs in particular). And others (mainly French) at the Koulikoro camp, about 60 km northeast of Bamako, near the Niger River. According to the rules of engagement, this “protection force” will have weapons as well as light armored vehicles. But they will only be able to use these weapons in the event of “self-defense” or a proven risk. It will also only have the function of protecting the European establishments (in Bamako or Koulikoro), the trainers during their training work (in order to avoid possible “green on blue” attacks) or their travels. And will not participate in the fighting currently being waged in the north. There is therefore no “mentoring” activity planned.

Medical support

Medical support for the mission (medical team and field hospital – Role 1/2) should be provided by German soldiers (at least 20 people), who will provide Role 2 in Koulikoro, with Austrian, Hungarian and Bulgarian elements ( who will ensure Role 1 in Bamako).

(*) The French minister had to leave Dublin a little earlier than planned to go to Asia (India). And the subject “Mali” was therefore addressed as a precursor during the evening “capacities” session.

(Update) Details on the Czech and Spanish workforce. And confirmation of the two capitals of the information given first on B2

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).