Further to these posts,
it looks like some trial ballooning is going by a certain national newspaper that takes quite an editorial stance in a supposed news story):
Canada must [?!?] respond to Mali’s call to arms
The mustering has begun. African nations are being asked to commit troops to help Mali take back its north from Islamists. European nations are making plans for a training mission. France is offering surveillance drones. The U.S. backs intervention.
Canada will soon face a decision. Stephen Harper’s government won’t send fighting troops, but it will have to decide if it will send some kind of military assistance. That could include perhaps, after Afghanistan, another contingent of trainers to help foreign troops fight a dusty counterinsurgency war.
The request will come, from allies and others. Canada has a history in Mali. Until a coup in March, Mali was one of Canada’s biggest foreign-aid recipients. The Canadian Forces have played a major role in training Mail’s military, in regular officer training, and sending Special Forces trainers. Now, with a mission being planned, Mr. Harper’s government would find it hard to refuse to provide some help…
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has said Canada is not contemplating a military mission – but then no Western country is planning to send combat soldiers, beyond a few Special Forces troops to help plan operations. Mali’s government wants to be seen to take the lead, backed by African troops…
All I can say is be very careful what one gets into, and how deeply–see below for all sorts of uncertainties. And with so many other players involved how necessary would any Canadian military participation be? As for those other players…
Mali war plan to be ready within weeks: AU
An African plan for military intervention in Mali to help government troops reclaim territory from Islamist militants will be ready within weeks, the head of the African Union (AU) said on Wednesday [Oct. 24]…
The AU asked the Security Council in June to back military intervention. The council asked for a detailed operation plan within a deadline of a little over six weeks from October 12 [in a Chapter VII resolution–i.e. not peacekeeping].
“The Security Council has asked us to produce a plan within 45 days - that will be done within 45 days,” Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairwoman of the AU Commission, told Reuters in an interview after ministers opened a meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
Western diplomats had expressed concern that the AU’s request for U.N. backing in June had lacked the necessary details, while others have voiced serious reservations about the ability of ECOWAS to tackle the northern Islamists anytime soon…
In July, the AU said it hoped military intervention in Mali would be a last resort. But on Wednesday Dlamini-Zuma spoke of an “early” military operation that could run alongside negotiations.
“We are working … to finalize the joint planning for the early deployment of an African-led international military force to help Mali recover the occupied territories in the North,” she told the opening of the PSC meeting…
Some envoys predict that it could be months before any kind of plan is put in motion and troops are trained and in place.
“One plan is ready, and the other one will be ready because work has already started,” Dlamini-Zuma said…
3,200 African troops needed to fight rebels, Islamist militants in Mali, official says
The African Union on Wednesday pledged to mobilize an African military force to battle al-Qaida-affiliated groups controlling northern Mali.
African foreign ministers meeting at the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia agreed to write a final operational plan for the African-led force by the end of the month, as well as calling for arms and equipment to be provided for Mali’s army from members and international partners.
Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, the president of the Economic Community of West African States, told The Associated Press after Wednesday’s closed-door meeting that roughly 3,200 troops would be needed.
Western officials have said the planned African-led military offensive is unlikely to begin before next year [emphasis added] — despite growing concern about the terrorist threat militants there pose to the continent and the rest of the world…
2) More broadly:
The Whiff of Conflict Grows in Mali
A military strike to recapture Mali’s Islamist-held north is growing more likely, according to Western powers, regional bodies and the United Nations — a pronounced shift after months of hesitation and hopes that negotiations might end what is now seen as a far-reaching jihadist threat.
In recent weeks, for the first time, a broad-based international consensus has formed that war could soon be waged in the vast desert and savanna of northern Mali, an area roughly the size of France. Planning for such an operation remains embryonic. Who would take part? When would it occur? Who would command it [emphasis added]?
These basic details have yet to be worked out, officials conceded…
“There is no alternative,” said Jack Christofides, a top official in the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which is playing a leading role in planning a possible operation [emphasis added–a Good Thing?]. “For some of these more radical groups” occupying northern Mali, he added, “it’s going to take military force.”
As many as 7,000 to 10,000 soldiers may be needed [emphasis added] to take back and hold the north, United Nations officials have said, and the barriers to compiling such a force are evident…
Panetta: Cannot let al-Qaida hide in N. Africa
Senior U.S. defense leaders are working with allies on a plan to deal with al-Qaida- linked militants in Mali and elsewhere in the North Africa region, with American assistance likely to center on intelligence and logistical support [emphasis added] and not troops on the ground.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon Wednesday that the U.S. must work with nations in the region to ensure that al-Qaida has no place to hide and expand its capabilities.
Panetta provided no details on what the U.S. would be willing to do, and officials say no final decisions have been made. But senior Defense Department leaders have been in France for the recent meetings on the matter, including assistant defense secretary Michael Sheehan and deputy assistant secretary Amanda Dory. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson was also at the Paris talks, which began on Monday [Oct. 22]…
Mark Collins is a prolific Ottawa blogger
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