The EU stops its military training in Mali, but does not withdraw. The soldiers were inactive for a long time anyway.
For the time being, the Bundeswehr’s training mission in Mali has been stopped Photo: Thomas Wiegold / photothek / imago
COTONOU / BERLIN taz | The EU is temporarily stopping its missions in Mali due to the military coup – but that doesn’t make a difference. “They are still there and they will resume work as soon as possible,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Wednesday in Berlin after a meeting of EU defense ministers. Due to the corona pandemic, the EU training mission for Mali’s armed forces “EUTM Mali” has been suspended since the beginning of April.
Because of the contacts between soldiers, security was not guaranteed, it was said at the time. Then an EU soldier tested positive and most of the staff left the country. According to the Bundeswehr, there are currently 75 soldiers in Mali for EUTM; They do not currently conduct any training, with the exception of an ongoing two-week “basic training in tactical medical care”; neither is the EUCAP Sahel Mali police training mission.
So it had little to do with reality that at the end of May the Bundestag approved the expansion of German participation in EUTM Mali. In future, up to 450 soldiers should be deployed instead of 350. They no longer only want to train in Mali, but also in neighboring countries.
Now these plans are on hold – thanks to the overthrow of Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta on August 17th by the army, which has received basic training from the EU mission for seven years, in which, according to Borrell, 90 percent of Malian soldiers took part. Federal Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer also confirmed on Wednesday: “It is well known that some of the leading figures of the putschists also received training in Germany and France.”
International training of the coup plotters
According to a report, two of the putschists once studied in Germany, one at the Bundeswehr University in Munich. There was also higher-level training elsewhere: Junta members Malick Diaw and Sadio Camara studied in Russia, and France and the US are working with Mali’s special forces, whose commander, Assimi Goita, now heads Mali’s military junta.
Goita is also said to have taken a course in counterterrorism at the George C. Marshall Center in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a partner institution in Germany and the USA. The US suspended cooperation with Mali’s armed forces in response to the coup, but the US embassy in Bamako was the first to meet with the military government on Thursday.
Germany’s military cooperation with Mali was the subject of the Bundestag’s Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday. All international authorities have condemned the coup – but a reinstatement of the ousted president is off the table since he said this week that he doesn’t want it at all. It is now only about his release and the transition to a civil reorganization.
The first step took place on Thursday: Keïta was released in Bamako. Junta chief Goita declared that the joint fight against terrorism with the foreign troops would now be continued. France’s chief of staff, General Lecointre, called on the EU to resume its training program: “You have to be able to distinguish between a political and a military reality.”
German soldiers “doing well”
But the mandate of EUTM Mali provides for the support of the “legitimate authorities” – that excludes formal cooperation with a military junta. “It’s a question of principle,” says political expert Issaga Kampo in Bamako.
And the German soldiers in Mali? Three days after the coup, the Bundeswehr announced that they were “doing well”. However, they would not leave their camps for the time being, but would stay in Koulikoro 60 kilometers outside the capital Bamako and in Bamako itself.
The 900 German soldiers at the UN mission (Minusma) in Gao, far away from Bamako, continue as if nothing had happened. “The German soldiers of the Minusma in Gao are currently continuing their mission unchanged,” explains the Bundeswehr Operations Command.