Members of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet have approved plans to send several hundred German soldiers to Mali. The Cabinet set a higher number than will initially be deployed in case the war escalates.
Up to 330 troops are slated to aid the UN-mandated mission in Mali, according to initial reports released after the Tuesday morning meeting in Berlin. The German Cabinet approved two separate mandates, one of which is to provide a maximum of 180 soldiers for an EU-led training mission for Malian forces. The second foresees sending up to 150 troops for logistical support.
The German government has never intended to send its soldiers into combat, a position it maintained in the mandates drafted on Tuesday.
According to the green-lighted plans, 40 soldiers will initially be deployed to assist in the training of Malian troops. The German armed forces are to send an additional 40 specialists to a field hospital.
The second draft mandate aims to strengthen logistical support, which Germany has been providing since the beginning of the French-African led mission in January. In addition to its planes already transporting troops from neighboring countries to Mali, it is to send three Transall aircrafts. The German Cabinet also pledged to send an Airbus for aerial refueling of French fighter jets.
Before the end of the week, the Bundestag plans to deliberate over the Cabinet's two proposals
EU training mission in Mali is a go
Tuesday's decision by Germany's Cabinet followed closely after the EU foreign ministers had agreed to begin deploying a military training mission to the West African nation, a plan which had been in development since the beginning of the UN-mandated mission in January.
The European Union Training Mission in Mali (EUTM), which currently has a mandate of 15 months and an upward limit of 500 soldiers, expects to commence its reform of the Malian army within the coming months.
By mid-March, the number of EU soldiers in Bamako is expected to reach nearly 150, double the amount of troops currently stationed in the Malian capital. An estimated 200 European military advisors are to begin training four Malian battalions of 640 men each by the start of the following month.
In January, France launched a military intervention in Mali at the request of its interim government in order to prevent Islamists from advancing toward the capital, Bamako. Since then, Paris and its West African allies have pushed the Islamists out of the country's most populous northern cities.
The EU training mission will reportedly focus on human rights and the rule of law in addition to military skills. Malian troops have been accused of human rights abuses as they have sought to retake the north from Islamist rebels.
kms/ccp (AFP, dpa)