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The seven wounds of EUTM Mali according to Irsem

(B2) The finding is severe. Despite its workforce (about 500 people) and its history (seven years), the Malian army's training mission, EUTM Mali, is not fully effective. It suffers from seven major problems, according to researcher Denis Tull from IRSEM who has just published a study

A European instructor and FAMa in exercise (credit: EUTM Mali)

Managing a double challenge: fighting and rebuilding 

In Mali, the fact that the armed forces are already engaged in operations is a " major constraint " and " often overlooked ". The priority of the Malians is the war effort, and not the reconstruction of their military tool. Not only Europeans and Malians have different priorities. But even when the goals align, “ the resources and capacities of Malian partners are necessarily limited ". With around 75% of the Malian forces engaged in the field, often for 9 to 12 months, EUTM is struggling to receive a sufficient number of soldiers to train. Potentially available staff are “ few and exhausted ».

Supply-driven, not needs-driven reconstruction

Without a defined strategic framework, Malians rarely reject, “ never see », an offer of support (training, equipment, advice), whether or not it is adapted to their real needs and priorities. Some of the often second-hand vehicles (trucks, ambulances, etc.) offered in Mali " will never see the field of operation or break down on first use because no budget, no spare parts, no mechanism expertise have been programmed ". Bottom line: supply-driven aid has significant costs, poses sustainability and interoperability issues, and may in fact do little to build capacity — if not weaken it.

A real lack of coordination 

« Another disadvantage of the disconnect between supply and demand is the poor coordination of external aid. It is neither applied by the Malian party nor adequately assumed by the donors », including Europeans. Despite some recent efforts, there seems to be little more than an exchange of information ". Moreover, within the Malian Ministry of Defence, a single agent serves as the point of contact for security assistance.

International players are also singled out. Each tries to disclose its own military concepts and cultures of foreign origin that coexist uneasily ". This contributes to the saturation of the Malian army » Problem that EUTM Mali knows since in spite of an attempt of homogenization, each contingent (Swedish, Spanish, German or Estonian) mainly transmits its own standards.

Insufficient and ineffective training

The training by EUTM Mali was massive: more than 5.000 soldiers between February 2013 and April 2016. But it is the subject of frequent and persistent criticism, often shared by the members of the mission. In the line of sight: the too short duration of the formations, insufficient to have a significant impact on the effectiveness of the FAMa on the battlefield. The retraining of battalions, started in 2015 to improve and expand skills, “ did not bring significant progress ". The impact of the training of trainers also remains uncertain ».

Sometimes Malian soldiers are trained with equipment that their army does not have. And which she probably won't have in the near future. This inconsistency undermines the political credibility of the European Union and its mission, while other actors seek to take a place with Malians.

Divergent interests

If the objective of EUTM is to contribute to the reconstruction of a competent, professional and efficient army, " it is doubtful that the political and/or military leaders of Mali share this objective ". First of all, the Malian government has become accustomed to relying on foreign forces, in particular the UN mission (MINUSMA), effectively delegating security to them. Moreover, the outsourcing of security constitutes a guarantee of security against Mali's own army, which is prone to coups.

Resistance to change 

EUTM Mali faces resistance “ particularly notable for projects relating to governance and effectiveness in the security sector. For example, EUTM failed to convince the Malian authorities of the merits of a logistics information system (SILOG). Another permanent challenge: the implementation of a human resources management system, or a new payroll system, blocked by the " special interests, including racketeering and bribery and weak capacity to oversee the planning and expenditure process.

The European Union ended up linking part of its budget support to progress in these reforms. If the political message is strong, the sum (14 million) is derisory to create a real leverage effect.

An institutional vacuum 

Perhaps the greatest weakness of assistance to the security sector in Mali is that it revolves around various institutional problems rather than trying to solve them.

The first institutional obstacle is the Malian state. An effective army cannot be sustained in the absence of other effective state structures. The second concerns the institutional network of the security sector, which suffers from corruption and a dysfunctional organizational culture. Until these problems show signs of easing, there is little chance that the FAMa will become a more professional army.

(Leonor Hubaut)

Download the study (in English)

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Leonor Hubaut

© B2 - Bruxelles2 is a French online media that focuses on political Europe (powers, defence, foreign policy, internal security). It follows and analyzes developments in European policy, unvarnished and without concessions. Approved by the CPPAP. Member of SPIIL. Please quote "B2" or "Bruxelles2" in case of recovery Leonor Hubaut is a journalist. Graduated in international relations from the Free University of Brussels (specialization in globalization). She covers for B2 the work of the European Parliament, CSDP missions and African issues. Sahel specialist.