Thursday, March 24, 2016

CAF to Mali? Background Information

Earlier this week I published a post about the possibility of the Canadian Armed Forces heading to Africa with a list of possible destinations, for both UN or NATO missions. One of those regions was Mali.

What is going on in Mali you ask? Here is a little bit of a background on MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali)

(From the United Nations MINUSMA Webpage)

In mid-January 2012, a Tuareg movement known as the Mouvement national pour la libération de l’Azawad (MNLA), along with Islamic armed groups including Ansar Dine, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Mouvement pour l’unicité et le jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (MUJAO), in addition to deserters from the Malian armed forces, initiated a series of attacks against Government forces in the north of the country. The Tuareg rebellion was emboldened by the presence of well-equipped combatants returning from Libya in the wake of the fall of the regime there.

On 22 March, a mutiny by disaffected soldiers from the units defeated by the armed groups in the north resulted in a military coup d’état. A military junta, the Comité national pour le redressement de la démocratie et la restauration de l’Etat, led by Captain Amadou Sanogo, took power, suspended the Constitution and dissolved the Government institutions. The coup accelerated the collapse of the State in the north, allowing MNLA to easily overrun Government forces in the regions of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu and proclaim an independent State of Azawad on 6 April. Shortly thereafter, tensions emerged among the armed groups in the north and, by 18 November, Ansar Dine and MUJAO had driven MNLA out of the main towns of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal.

Immediately after the coup, on 27 March, the Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) appointed the President of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré, to mediate in the crisis. On 6 April, the military junta and ECOWAS signed a framework agreement that led to the resignation of the then President, Amadou Toumani Touré, on 8 April and the appointment of the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dioncounda Traoré, as interim President on 12 April. The agreement provided for the establishment of a transitional Government, headed by a prime minister with executive powers. On 17 April, Cheick Modibo Diarra was appointed interim Prime Minister. On 20 August, the Prime Minister announced the formation of a Government of national unity.

Following the coup d’état, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, offered the support of the United Nations to the Malian authorities. As a result, the Mali interim authorities requested United Nations assistance to build the capacity of the Malian transitional authorities in the areas of political negotiation, elections, governance, security sector reform and humanitarian assistance.

Further consultations led to the deployment in mid-January 2013 of the United Nations Missions in Mali – a multidisciplinary United Nations presence which was authorized by Security Council resolution 2085 of 20 December 2012 in order to provide coordinated and coherent support to (i) the on-going political process and (ii) the security process, including support to the planning, deployment and operations of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali.

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was established by Security Council resolution 2100 of 25 April 2013. Under the terms of the resolution, the mission would support the political process and carry out a number of security-related stabilization tasks, with a focus on major population centres and lines of communication, protecting civilians, human rights monitoring, the creation of conditions for the provision of humanitarian assistance and the return of displaced persons, the extension of State authority and the preparation of free, inclusive and peaceful elections.

The Mission would operate under robust rules of engagement with a mandate to use all necessary means to address threats to the implementation of its mandate, which would include protection of civilians under imminent threat of physical violence and protection of United Nations personnel from residual threats, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment. This could include the conduct of operations on its own or in cooperation with the Malian defence and security forces. French forces deployed in Mali were also authorized to intervene in support of MINUSMA when under imminent and serious threat upon request of the Secretary-General.


Authorized strength
12,680 total uniformed personnel, including
11,240 military personnel, including 40 military observers
1,440 police (including formed units)
An appropriate civilian component

Current strength (29 February 2016)
11,781 total uniformed personnel
10,684 military personnel
1,097 police (including formed units)
585 international civilian personnel
661 local civilian staff
143 United Nations Volunteers

*NB: Statistics for international and local civilians are as of 31 July 2015

Has Canada Been Previously Involved? 

The answer to this question is fairly complex - but yes. At the request of the French Government, the Canadian Government authorized the strategic lift capabilities of the RCAF to help the French Forces reach Mali in a timely manner. 

In 2013, Frontline Defence ran the following article about Canada's involvement. 


Jihadists are on the move in the sub-Sahara. The land-locked, developing country of Mali witnessed political deterioration that climaxed with a military coup in March 2012, and has remained in turmoil ever since. Former Libyan mercenaries and Al-Qaeda rebels exacerbated the crisis by capturing the country’s Tuareg region in the North, an area rich in uranium, gold and possibly oil. They were well armed, extolled a radical vision of Islam, and rapidly overcame the Malian army and the civilian population, imposing Sharia law.

Seeing Al-Qaeda’s rise in wealth and fortitude as a threat to their national security, Mali’s neighbours swiftly appealed to the international community for help. The response came in the form of UN Security Council Resolution 2085 permitting international intervention and “Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Mali.”
On 14 January 2013, following a request from the French Government, Canada committed one CC-177 transport aircraft, in a non-combat role, to transport equipment into the Malian capital of Bamako. Here, a Canadian Loadmaster and Traffic Technician load a French military fuel truck for delivery to Mali. (Photo: Sgt Matthew McGregor, CF Combat Camera)
Canada has been stepping up, in partnership with other Western and African allies to contribute equipment, skills and technology to help Mali persevere.

Canada committed one of its four CC-177 Globemaster transport planes in support of a French-led coalition mission in the West African country of Mali. Operation Serval is now in action.

The mandate of Canadian Air Task Force Mali specifically excludes combat and is limited to airlifting equipment and personnel. Since contracted for this mission two months ago, this C-17 and its 35-member crew have been working on a 24-hour work cycle. DND reports that, as of 15 March 2013, Air Task Force Mali had conducted 37 flights to deliver about 1,184,000 kilograms (2,605,000 pounds) of much-needed cargo.

During his first official visit, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault thanked the Canadian government for the loan of its transport plane and Canada’s ongoing support. “[France] considers Canada an ally that is always there in the most difficult ­circumstances,” he said in a written response to the Globe and Mail. “In the case of our intervention in Mali, we asked [Canada] for logistic support and the response was in line with our friendship.”

Canada’s contribution of the CC-177 has been extended indefinitely. “It will remain there as long as we feel there is a need,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper ­confirmed at a joint press conference with Ayrault. Harper remains firm that Canada is not willing to commit troops to a combat mission in Mali, although a Canadian contribution to a UN-led peacekeeping force has not been ruled out entirely.

“In terms of our longer term engagement, I think you know well we are not looking to have a combat, military mission there. We will certainly be providing development and humanitarian assistance. But the details of what our long-term engagement may be are still the subject of discussions we’re having among our ministerial colleagues, our caucus, and as well obviously we’re talking to the opposition parties about their preferences as well,” said Harper.

Canada has a pre-existing, decades-long relationship with Mali. Most recently, members of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) travelled to Africa in 2011 to provide training to members of Mali’s special forces, as the country faced threats from Al-Qaeda insurgents.

Canada has approved an extra $13 million to the $70 million already being contributed to ongoing humanitarian and development assistance. Have we opened the door to ever-greater expectations? Will additional requests soon be forthcoming?

If a UN call to put boots on the ground goes out, how will we respond? Now is the time to be having those difficult policy discussions.

Bethan Nodwell is a military spouse with a passion for politics, international relations and the defense industry.
© FrontLine Defence 2013
While it seems that Nodwell indicated in 2013, that the Canadian Government should begin discussing the possibility of sending the CAF to Mali; well it hasn't happened yet (at least publicly) and now, in 2016, it seems to be a big possibility as the Liberal Government seeks to "reengage" Canada internationally at the UN.