EU ends military training operations in Mali | European Union News

The European bloc is involved in two training missions in Mali – the EUTM and the EUCAP – to supervise the military and the police.

The European Union has decided to suspend crucial military training programs in Mali, as relations between Western forces and the West African country’s transitional military government deteriorate further.

Speaking at a ministerial meeting on Monday, top EU diplomat Josep Borrell cited the presence of Russian-affiliated forces in the country, as well as reports of human rights abuses by Malian troops and foreign fighters, among the reasons for this decision.

“We are stopping the training missions for the [Malian] armed forces and national guard,” Borrell said.

He added that developments in the country “forced us to see that there were not sufficient guarantees…on the non-interference of the Wagner group”, which he said was probably “responsible for certain very serious events that resulted in the death of dozens of people”. in Mali lately”.

The Russian private military organization has been accused by Western countries of acting with impunity in the country. It is also an accusation that has been leveled against French soldiers in the past across the Sahel.

The EU decision comes after Human Rights Watch published a report on the alleged killing of 300 people, mostly civilians in the town of Moura, during a military operation carried out by Malian forces alongside combatants strangers. The Malian army, which previously said around 200 “terrorists” were killed in the operation, said it had opened an investigation.

“The Sahel remains a priority. We are not letting go of the Sahel, far from it. We want to engage even more in this region,” Borrell said, suggesting that other forms of training could be maintained.

The EU is participating in two training missions in Mali. The first – the EU training mission – had more than 1,000 personnel from 25 European countries training Malian soldiers until 2024, according to its website. The other, the EU Capacity Building Mission (EUCAP) focused on mentoring the police with a mandate expiring next year.

The European bloc is involved in two training missions in Mali, EUTM and EUCAP [File: Paul Lorgerie/Reuters]

This decision has no serious consequences in terms of security, noted Alain Antil, director of the Sub-Saharan Africa Center of the French Institute of International Relations. “It’s better if the troops are trained than not, but it’s not like the EU has withdrawn a battalion,” he said.

“From a diplomatic perspective though, we can say that the EU is very visibly distancing itself and its warning that collaboration has stalled,” Antil said. “We must interpret this announcement as a political warning to the Malian government,” he added.

Antil explained that this could also be the prelude to a new European approach in the future engagements of the United Nations mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

MINUSMA supported local forces in the fight against the rebellion of armed groups by maintaining more than 13,000 soldiers and 1,920 police. But the presence of Western countries in Mali has been questioned since the withdrawal of French troops from the country in February.

The withdrawal came as relations between France and Mali hit a new low after Mali’s military seized power twice – in August 2020 and May 2021.

Since then, European allies involved in MINUSMA have deliberated on their next steps as the lack of French protection could further expose UN troops on the ground.

On Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited soldiers in the northern town of Gao before deciding whether or not to expand the German presence in Mali. More than 300 German soldiers are deployed as part of EUTM and 1,100 are stationed at MINUSMA.

Before leaving, Baerbock said the Malian government had “lost much international trust in recent months, including by delaying democratic transition and stepping up military cooperation with Moscow.”

“Just saying ‘keep it up’ now would be a mistake in my opinion,” she said.

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