THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
14 November, 2012
By DAVID GAUTHIER-VILLARS in Paris, LAURENCE NORMAN in Brussels and DREW HINSHAW in Abuja, Nigeria
Reluctant to send its own troops, the
European Union is considering using its
checkbook to help West African countries wage a war against al Qaeda’s Saharan franchise and other violent Islamic groups controlling large swaths of Mali, said European diplomats and other people familiar with the matter.
The EU, which has already pledged to
support the proposed West African force
with training, transpor, and intelligence
gathering, is now discussing spending
tens of millions of euros to provide
equipment and monthly allowances to the roughly 3,000 troops, the people said.
However, the EU is moving cautiously with its proposal, two of these people said, because it wants any military intervention in the region to appear as an African initiative, not a European one. France, in particular, is eager to help but it won’t send its own combat troops both because it wants to conduct a less intrusive Africa policy and because
Algeria, a former French colony, has said
it won’t tolerate the presence of non- African combat troops in the region,
Moreover, Islamic militants in Mali threatened repeatedly this year to
retaliate against any country that attacks them. West African countries are trying to set up the force to help Mali to regain control of its northern half, which is under the sway of the al Qaeda affiliate, known as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM.
The nations say northern Mali is becoming a haven for violent groups that live off kidnapping and trafficking as well as a training ground for terrorists who could destabilize the whole region. AQIM, which is holding six French nationals hostage, has recruited several French citizens into its ranks, French President François Hollande has said. The group is also linked by phone records to last month’s attack on a U.S. Libyan consulate that left three Americans and a U.S. ambassador dead, according to the U.S. government.
The West African nations say they will
submit plans for the Mali mission to the
United Nations Security Council for
approval. The participants believe the
council will approve the mission if it is led by Africans. Only after approval,which diplomats say is likely in December, would formal aid talks begin.
Several African countries have already
made clear that they expect France, other EU countries and the U.S. to foot part of the bill. “The threat is global,” Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou said during a visit in Paris on Tuesday. “All countries must participate.”
Officials in Nigeria, which is expected to
provide the most troops for the proposed force, voiced similar demands. Nigeria is already spending one fifth of its budget on internal security problems. The nation is fighting an Islamist insurgency of its own, and maintaining an uneasy peace in its conflict-prone oil-producing delta. “Obviously, there has got to be some sort of foreign financing,” said Doyin Okupe, special adviser to Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. “The costs are going to be substantial.”
A U.S. State Department spokesman said
it was premature to discuss any specific
U.S. contribution to the possible military
intervention, beyond Washington’s
support of efforts to help Mali recover its
territorial integrity. Several European governments are expected to discuss the Mali issue during a meeting in Paris Thursday of foreign and defense ministers and follow up with another gathering Monday. If approved, EU funding would come from the European Commission’s African Peace Facility, the people familiar with the matter said.
The Commission has dispatched a
technical mission to Nigeria, which is
home to the 15-member Economic
Community Of West African States, to
evaluate whether the institution would
have the capacity to distribute any European assistance with proper financial management and reporting, one of the people familiar with the matter said. European diplomats said that beyond the financing of the West-African force, a big question centered on the status of the Malian army itself.
In March, junior officers overthrew the
president, citing, among other grievances, pay theft. That led France and the U.S. to cancel all aid to the military. An appropriations act blocks the U.S. from resuming aid until elections have been held, which could take years. France said it resumed military cooperation with Mali last month but that French instructors were still in the process of evaluating what was left of Mali’s army.
The EU is using its African Peace Facility in Somalia where, alongside the U.S., it is paying the salaries of African Union troops from Uganda, Sierra Leone, Kenya, and Burundi. This year, those troops cleared al-Shabaab, another al Qaeda- linked sect from urban areas, and brought a measure of calm to one of the world’s most thoroughly failed states.