Mali and Central African Republic update – 2/17

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Turmoil continues in Mali. A few recent articles I noticed:

  • European Union decides to keep their troops in the fight
  • Another round of retaliation for retaliation
  • Five countries will add troops to the counter-terrorism efforts in the Sahel

1/19/17 – Strategy Page – Mali; Europe Agrees to Stay and Fight – European Union has decided to keep 500 military trainers in Mali to provide ongoing training to officers and NCOs for the long-term. Article says it takes a decade to professionalize a military force. Corruption is so endemic in Mali and other African countries (I will make a guess same concept applies in Asia and South America as well) that it takes that long to train officers and the NCO cadre to avoid corruption.

Most of the article focuses on the various Islamic terrorist (that is the wording used in the article) groups running loose in the country. Ansar Dine seems to be the strongest group because it was formed by Mali natives and thus can survive amongst tribal members better than foreigners. Much discussion of the tactics, in particular a general increase in crime.

Article says there were 200 Islamic terrorist incidents in 2016 with 80% of them being in the north part of the country where the terrorists are strongest.

2/14 – Christianity Today – Pastor Killed and Church Destroyed in Revenge Attack in Central African Republic citing a report at World Watch Monitor, Pastor Killed, 2 churches destroyed in renewed violence in Central African Republic – The cycle of retaliatory attacks continues.

The CAR military and UN troops tried to capture one of the leaders of a Muslim militia group. The leader and one of his troops were killed in the attempt.

In retaliation, the Muslim militia stabbed a local Christian pastor to death, burned down the church building where he was preaching, torched two other churches, then burned a number of homes.

The World Watch Monitor has background. Two other things I noticed in the article. It provides good background on the situation in CAR. It is also the most neutral, unslanted reporting on CAR I recall having read in a long time.

2/16 – Strategy Page – Mali: Sahel Coalition Formed – Deep background on counter-terror operations in the Sahel, which is the semi-arid area stretching across Africa, just south of the Sahara.

France now has 4,000 troops working in Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, and Burkina Faso. They have 20 helicopters, 6 fighter jets, and 3 UAVs for air power, with 200 armored vehicles for ground transport. Their only air transport is 2 C-160s , which look like a scaled down C-130, but with essentially the same payload capacity (35K lb on C-160 vs 45K lb on C-130). Resupply comes from US and British C-17s. (This repeats the comment I’ve seen that France does not have its own long-distance transport capacity, thus can’t engage in this type of power projection without US help – cooperation and sharing the load is good!) Most of their aerial intel comes from US drones and surveillance resources.

The French troops will now be joined by the “G5 counter-terrorism force” with somewhere between 500 and 2,000 troops from Mali, Chad, Niger, Ivory Coast, and Burkina Faso. The new troops have been trained by either French or US special operations troops.

There is far more shooting in Mali that makes it into the news. The UN peacekeeper forces there constitute 15% of the world-wide UN peacekeeping force but have suffered 90% of the peacekeeper deaths in 2016.

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