Countries of the European Union voted Thursday to back French military intervention in Mali, including forces to help train the Malian army. The decision falls short of offering military support to help French forces in their armed offensive against Islamist militant groups in Mali.
The EU mission would train Malian troops on issues of humanitarian law, command and control, logistics and civilian protection.The EU hope to have the mission in place and launched in Mali by mid-February at the latest.
Some believed that the EU might not agree to backing the French following Wednesday's Islamist attack on the Shell oil facility in Algeria. Attackers say their action and the hostages they have taken are as a direct result of Frances military intervention in Mali. Today's announcement of a mission to Mali by the EU sends a signal to Islamist terrorist groups that such actions in Algeria will not be stop the West from taking action to prevent terrorism.
The EU were strong in their condemnation of Islamist militants in Mali, who have been attacking Malian troops. They also, however, asked that both Malian troops and Islamist militants to show respect for the rights of civilians and human rights in general.
The dispatch of an EU training team still needs one more vote by EU leaders but this is expected to pass easily. Although not offering combat support to the French, the EU's decision shows support for the French in its direct military action to help the leaders of its past colony.
Speaking to media following the EU meeting in Brussels, the Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said: “The threat of jihadi terrorists is something that should be a matter of great concern to all of us and there is not one European country that can hide if this threat would present itself to the European continent.”
The jihadists in Mali have pushed back Malian forces and now control a huge area in the country's North. The French troops are being deployed to stop the jihadists moving any closer to the Malian capital, Bamako.
Despite its financial problems, the EU will reportedly spend an initial $16 million to set up the training mission. The mission will be led by a French general. This is once again a powerful message of support for the French military operation.
Although no combat role has been approved many feel that the situation in Mali has the potential to turn into an all out war that will inevitably bring in combat troops from other EU countries such as the UK.
The 450 strong 'training' mission could be just the tip of the iceberg if France cannot quickly get things under control there.
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