French parliament votes to prolong Mali mission
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The French parliament voted to prolong military operations in Mali on Monday as a French colonel warned that Mali's army suffers from a lack of training and crucial funds, months after the EU launched a training mission to bolster Malian forces.
The French parliament voted to prolong military operations in Mali on Monday as a French colonel warned that Mali's army still suffers from a lack of training and crucial funds, months after the EU launched a training mission to bolster the country’s forces.
Lawmakers voted unanimously to prolong the mission, and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault vowed that French forces would remain until the operation can be declared a "military success".
But whether Mali's stability can be ensured beyond the French mission remains an open question.
The European Union in January approved a 15-month training mission aimed at rebuilding Mali’s poorly paid and under-equipped national forces, with the aim of making it strong enough to fend off a possible resurgence by the Islamist militants who took control of the north of the country last year.
But some €8 million ($10 million) pledged by international donors at a conference in Addis Ababa has not yet reached the army.
“The international community says, ‘We absolutely need to rebuild the Malian army’. But not a euro cent has been given to the Malian army ... even though 8 million euros were promised on January 29 at the Addis Ababa donor conference,” Bruno Heluin, who trains Malian troops as part of the EU mission, told France’s "Le Monde" daily.
Instead, he said, the army is merely getting on “day by day”, with equipment donated by major powers proving unreliable and corrupt officers robbing the army of transport vehicles.
The army is nearly entirely dependent on outdated equipment donated by major powers including France, China, Russia and the United States - donations that had exacerbated its troubles rather than fix them, Heluin said.
“Since 2006, the Malians have ordered 800 pickup trucks," he said. "Today, almost none remain."
Some of the trucks have been stolen outright, while he said others were picked over for parts.
Under these circumstances, Heluin said, effective training seems almost impossible.
Hervé Morin, France’s former minister of defence, seems to agree that Europe needs to do more to back up French efforts in Mali.
He said on Monday that without a serious European commitment, it would be unlikely that French troops would be able to leave the country before the end of 2014.
France began to withdraw its 4,000-strong force from Mali this month after driving back an offensive by the Islamist militants who had seized two-thirds of the country in the north.
The UN Security Council is considering a draft resolution to approve the creation of a 12,600-strong UN peacekeeping force that would take over from the UN-backed African force currently in place.
But the peacekeepers would not remain indefinitely and donors have insisted that Mali’s army be brought up to strength in order to defend against any future Islamist incursions.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)