The Minister for Defence, Alan Shatter TD, announced today that he proposes to seek the approval of the Government for participation by the Defence Forces in the planned EU Training Mission in Mali (EUTM Mali) as part of a joint training contingent with the United Kingdom armed forces.
The EU mission to Mali will be responsible for providing the Malian Armed Forces with military training and advice in order to improve their capacity to maintain security in Mali and restore the authority of the Malian Government and the territorial integrity of the Malian State.
The Minister stated:
“Alongside standard infantry training, training will also be provided in international humanitarian law, the protection of civilians and human rights.”
The EU training mission in Mali is provided for in the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2071.
Planning for the operation has been ongoing at EU level for some weeks now and Ireland has been engaged in discussions with EU partners on a possible contribution by the Defence Forces to the mission.
“Both myself and my colleague, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore TD, have been following this issue very closely and we have been strongly supportive of this EU mission to Mali from the outset,” the Minister said.
“I am glad to say that, following my meeting with Mr Andrew Murrison MP, the Minister for International Security Strategy at the UK Ministry of Defence, and subject to formal Government approval, the United Kingdom and Ireland will provide a joint Infantry Training Team to the proposed EU Training Mission in Mali. Our contribution to this mission will be similar to that provided to EUTM Somalia where we provide a joint training team alongside Malta.”
In total, approximately 200 military training personnel will be deployed as part of the EU training mission in Mali. Four Infantry Training teams each comprising twenty four (24) military trainers will be provided within the mission. France will provide two of the training teams. A number of Nordic countries will provide a team and the UK and Ireland will now also provide a team. Ireland expects to contribute six to eight members of the Defence Forces to the Mission. It is expected that the mission, including the force protection element will comprise some 500 military personnel in total. The training mission is expected to be fully deployed by Mid March with training commencing at the beginning of April. The training mission will not be involved in operations conducted by the Malian Forces.
While Ireland and UK forces have worked together in different theatres and operations over many years, including on UN Blue Hat operations, EU-led operations and NATO-led Operations in the Balkans and Afghanistan, this will be the first time a joint UK/Irish military contingent has been deployed on any such operation.
The Minister said:
“I believe that the provision of a joint UK/Ireland contingent is another step in the normalisation of relations between our two countries. In that sense it is a historic step and provides a tangible manifestation of the very positive relationship and the mutual respect that now exists between our countries. The fact that this first joint deployment is to a peacekeeping operation under a United Nations Mandate and unanimously endorsed by the European Union is also very pertinent in our historical context and reflects our joint commitment to international peace and security under the aegis of the United Nations.”
EUTM Mali aims to conduct a military training mission to advise and train (in the South of Mali) the Malian Armed Forces under the control of legitimate political authorities, in order to contribute to restore their military capacity, with a view to enabling them to engage in operations aiming at restoring the Malian territorial integrity. These activities will be conducted in close coordination with other actors involved in the support to the Malian Armed Forces, in particular the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) but the mission will not provide direct support to future operations of the Malian Armed Forces nor to operations by the ECOWAS peacekeeping operation in Mali called AFISMA. A decision to launch the Mission has not yet been made by the EU and planning for the EUTM is continuing in Brussels. None of the personnel in the Irish/UK Training Team will have a combat role.
The UK/Ireland training team will be drawn from across the Defence Forces in Ireland and from the First Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment of the UK Armed Forces, based at Tern Hill in Shropshire. The Regiment has seen extensive service in a training and support role in Sierra Leone and in the training of the Afghan National Army and comprises for the most part of military personnel drawn from both parts of the Island of Ireland alongside personnel with Irish connections in the UK.