|French soldiers patrol Timbuktu, Mali, on January 31|
The Polish government has petitioned President Bronisław Komorowski to send 20 soldiers to Mali to take part in an EU training mission in the country. After the president gives his approval, as expected, the Polish soldiers would be involved in the mission from February 16 until the end of this year.
The soldiers would be tasked with helping to improve the skills of the Malian army so that it can effectively battle Islamist rebels who last year succeeded in taking over large swathes of territory in the country’s north – an area the size of France.
After having secured the northern territories, the fundamentalists then attempted a takeover of the entire country, including the capital, Bamako, prompting a military response from France.
The French government currently has 2,500 soldiers in Mali and its intervention has gone well so far. Its troops are now in full control of the central part of the country and have captured the ancient historic town of Timbuktu from the Islamists, who have so far retreated without a fight. The main worry will now be keeping them from returning.
In mid-January, the EU training mission was launched and last Monday, Prime Minister Donald Tusk met with French President Francois Hollande to discuss the matter. After the meeting, Mr Tusk said there was no need for Polish soldiers to join the fighting themselves, but they would serve as instructors to the Malian army.
The EU’s mission is scheduled to last for 15 months. Five hundred European troops are planned to take part, including 200 instructors, 70 commanding officers and a 200-strong security force. International donors have so far pledged up to $455 million to help oust the Islamists permanently.
Meanwhile, West African countries have pledged 5,700 soldiers to aid, and then take over from, the French soldiers currently bearing the brunt of the battle. The cost of the Polish mission is estimated at zł.5.8 million.
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