Mali rebel mans a truck-mounted anti-aircraft weapon

Mali rebel mans a truck-mounted anti-aircraft weapon

8 January 2013
By Damilola Oyedele

Security challenges which have prompted the Federal Government to
deploy troops to many parts of the
federation, have forced Nigeria to scale
down the number of men of the armed
forces it will contribute to a sub-regional military contingent for peacekeeping in Mali.

THISDAY learnt yesterday that Nigeria
would now contribute 450 soldiers to the contingent put together by the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS), down from the original 600 soldiers it had intended to contribute to the 3,300-strong troops. West African leaders on November 11,
2012 had agreed to send some 3,300
troops to Mali in order to assist
government-controlled troops regain
control of the northern part of the
country from a band of terrorists suspected to have links with al-Qaida. The terrorists have been in control of that section of Mali for about eight months.

The ECOWAS leaders at an emergency
summit in Abuja, attended by military
experts from the United Nations and
Europe, reached a consensus that the
crisis in Mali could only be resolved
through military intervention. About a week after the summit, the Minister of State for Defence, Mrs. Olusola Obada, had told the British Prime Minister’s Special Representative to the Sahel Region, Mr. Stephen O’Brien,that Nigeria would contribute 600 soldiers to the ECOWAS contingent meant for Mali. The United Nations Security Council(UNSC) last December had also approved the planned military intervention by ECOWAS to restore normalcy in Mali.

The coalition, which also enjoys the
support of non-African states, has been
termed African-led Support Mission in
Mali (AFISMA) and is expected to help
train Mali’s army. Nigeria was expected to contribute the highest number of troops to the contingent owing to its reputation as a global peacekeeper, and has led similar missions in the past when it intervened in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Besides, Nigeria’s military, which gets a big defence budget relative to other West African countries, is considered more advanced and experienced in military warfare than its neighbours in the sub-region.

However, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs
source informed THISDAY that for the
first time in its history, Nigeria would not be able to meet the original target on the number of soldiers it would
contribute to AFISMA, as its officers and soldiers are engaged in one operation or the other in several parts of the country. According to him, because of the security challenges in the North and insecurity in other parts of the country that have necessitated troops deployment to the affected states, Nigeria will not be able to send more than 450 soldiers to the international military contingent.

He said the latest military report showed that the military is currently actively engaged in 34 states of the federation,excluding the troops that are still stationed in Liberia and Guinea Bissau.

“We cannot dissipate our energy; we
have to secure our own country first. So
we cannot do more than 450, other
countries would have to step up (their
contributions) and the good thing is that
the mission involves ECOWAS and the AU, so they would prevail on other countries
to step up,” the source said.

On the financial implication of Nigeria’s
involvement in AFISMA, the source
explained that it would not be a repeat
of the Liberian and Sierra Leonean
interventions when Nigeria bore almost
all of the cost of the operations in both countries. “Our financial contribution would be proportional to what we are contributing and to what others are contributing; it would be shared out. Of course, there would be assistance from the AU, the UN and other countries, even from the EU which has pledged support,” the source added.

France is one of the countries that has pledged support for the mission. The UNSC resolution approving the intervention noted that certain political
and military benchmarks must be met
before the commencement of the
onslaught against the rebels and terrorist networks in the Maghreb.


About beegeagle

BEEG EAGLE -perspectives of an opinionated Nigerian male with a keen interest in Geopolitics, Defence and Strategic Studies


  1. Good…Charity begins at home. Let us concentrate on modernizing our Armed Forces with necessary tools and training. Let us also focus on securing our country before we think of others. The most important people to us should be Nigerians…so lets work on providing security to them. Kudos FG for a well though out plan. If after securing our borders they still need help, we can then talk of increasing troops and equipment there.

  2. beegeagle says:

    By and large, OptimusPrime007, I agree with you. You might recall that we have four battalions in Darfur and two battalions in Liberia on UNAMID and UNMIL duties. We also have Nigerian personnel on secondment to the Armed Forces of Liberia. Then, add to that about two companies on ECOMIB operations in Guinea Bissau.

    HOWEVER, if we want to make this AFISMA contingent meaningful, why not make it an affair for specialists – a strategic intervention which would be greatly appreciated by our Malian near neighbours?

    Left to me, one would be thinking about sending a mixed platoon of special operations forces and a company of combat-experienced COIN-biased troops for urban warfare(roughly 200 men in combination), platoon of combat engineers since the landmine/IED threat is sure to escalate to the alarming levels which we have seen with Boko Haram; twelve 105mm/122mm guns and their crews, twelve T55 tanks and eighteen Panhard AML-90s? The T55s, 105mm/122mm arty and AML 90s would make for interoperability with other contingents with Mali and Guinea deploying T55s, all of the contingents deploying M56/M101 and D30 arty guns and all the Francophone countries deploy Panhard AML 60/90 and M3 APCs

    That way, the Malians who know the terrain better provide the bulk of infantrymen while we provide the punch? We have already stated before now that aside from the technicals mounted with 12.7mm and 14.5mm HMGs, I have seen the terrorists steering RCL-mounted 4WD vans, BM-21 MRLs, BRDM-2s, BTR-60s and T55 tanks captured from fleeing Malian Army personnel.

    That is where the Malians would be needing help – firepower to counter the same assets which they gave away to terrorists as they deserted the front. Whatever has come in through Libya, those would be RCLs, AA guns and SAMs. The T55 tanks, BRDM-2 scout cars, BTR-60 APCs and BM-21 battlefield saturation rockets are all conceded largesse from Malian Army stocks which have chiefly come through Bulgarian surplus stocks these ten years

  3. Henry says:

    Perfect!!!!! This is the best news I’ve read all through this year 2013. I’ve literally gotten all I had earlier wished for back in 2012, when I was practically the lone wolf on a thread about nigeria’s intervention in mali.

  4. beegeagle says:

    Yeah Henry, I recall that you used to mention the need to avoid the needless financial burden of anywhere between two-fifths and one-half of the projected US$500 million outlay needed for the operations since sister West African countries have all too often left Nigeria to pick up the bills during such forays.

    Well, what to do with the stated force projection levels then? I think the only way is to make it a predominant SpecOps-COIN/combat engineer/armour/artillery force. That, rather than masses of infantrymen who can be raised locally, is where the Mali Armed Forces face the most severe challenges – low skills levels in urban warfare having fled the fight a long time ago, low awareness of IED threats since AQIM have not been throwing those or using suicide bombers and a depleted armoured warfare asset base, thanks to the free gifts which their large-scale desertion has made available to terrorists.

  5. Henry says:

    You are correct, general beeg. Firepower, just the way you have detailed it. The financial part of the story also overwhelming gladens my heart. I feel like it’s my birthday already. We cannot make the exact same mistakes we made in Liberia and SLR, where we paid with our lives and hard earned money. In fact in SLR, the british claim to have ended the conflict on their own. With nigerians only mounting “road blocks and checkpoints”.

    Instability in mali spells doom for nigeria, it is not in the best interest of nigeria to have an unstable mali with a lawless north, over run by extremists. We’ve seen the ravaging effects of the misadventure of the west in libya and the consequences for us in nigeria with the illicit ploriferation of light arms and assault weapons across the sahel region and in nigeria. However it is important than nigeria use her head. With what I’m reading, I can only say kudos to F.G for taking this bold step, which I believe is in the best interest of nigerians.

  6. bigbrovar says:

    My position on the Mali issue has always been. What is worth doing at all is worth doing well. This Mali mission is not beans. Its completely different from what we faced in Libraria and Sierra Leone when you look at the sheer size of northern mali (which evelops Liberia and Sierra Leone put together) the terraine (mainly desert) and who we would be up against (battle harderned islamist, well trained and with lots of money and experience and hardware) And unlike Liberia and Sierra Leone this people have support of the local population *(forget what you are hearing in western media.. I have couple of Malian friends who have relations in the northern part and are quite happy that at least the Islamist helped in restoring sharia law and more importantly helped to chase our the tuaregs something the Mali government has been unable to do.) We should also note that the defecto government of Mali (the military) don’t want any intervention force there nor do the Algerians the strongest military in that region who also happen to bother Mali in the northern side. Word around mali is that it is not unlikely that the Algerians give tactic support to the Islamist who helped them doing their own islamist insurgency.

    So we intend to intervane in a very difficult terraine almost as big as Nigeria in sheer size. To root out an entrenched enemy with local support and knowledge. We can not even count on the support of the Malian military who would rather not have an intervention in the first place. And we intend to go with a meer 3000 troops? A quicker death would be droping them from a C130 without parashuts and be done with it already.

    I really don’t see how people in government see the Malian intervantion and security of Nigeria as mutually exlusive issues when in fact it has been esterblished that Boka Haram gets some level of supports from AIM. If there is any place we ought to be right now its northern Mali.. not Congo, not Liberia or Guniea Bissau..of all these places Mali is the only one which has direct impact to the insecurity we currently experience. Breaking the back of AIM would go in a long way to cut some of the foriegn support BH are receiving. And by God you won’t be rooting out AIM and the whole islamist with a misery 450 men. You need to shoulder this thing send in the troops with all the support we can muster. If there is any time playing the big tough guy of the region will have significant impact on our interest it is Mali. Unfortunately we choose to fold our arms and let others do the fighting for us. Don’t be surprised when Jacob Zuma sends in a strong contengent to Mali and take the shine. My Take is to cut back on previous commitment and focus on northern mali.. If we can’t do that. The keep our boys at home.. would be tragic to send them in for targetting practise.

  7. beegeagle says:

    I do appreciate your well-meaning concerns, BigBrovar but here are a few points to consider

    – AZAWAD(northern Mali) has variously been described as being roughly equal in size to France(547,000 or Texas(691,000 Assuming a midpoint between the two, it would be comparable in size to the Central African Republic(622,000 sq km). It is by any standards, a big place.

    – However, AZAWAD is also a sparsely populated strip of desert wasteland with the rebels clustered around the three regional administrative centres that are Gao. Kidal and Timbuktu. That pattern of occupation is replicated by SELEKA rebels in sparsely populated C.A.R

    Removed from these urban hubs, the rebels of northern Mali are likely to disappear into the desert as marauding rebel bands ala Boko Haram or AQIM in Nigeria and Algeria. Currently, the AZAWAD rebels are able to enforce their decrees because they control territory – the major population centres in northern Mali. That is the crux of their visibility which has also greatly boosted their real or imagined lethality. There is nothing to suggest that these chaps would stand and fight vigorously.

    – As can be seen in the FOMAC deployment to the C.A.R, a similar-sized and sparsely populated territory, Chad came in with 400 troops cruising in 32 Toyota Land Cruiser vehicles mounted with 14.5mm heavy machine guns – with combat experience in urban warfare and FIREPOWER to back up the floundering C.A.R army, seemingly being the core of the Chadian intervention. Cameroon, Gabon and Congo Brazzaville have each contributed 120 troops. On that small number, I have seen the Congolese in Chinese-built armoured vehicles armed with heavy calibre cannons.

    As can be seen from other interventions around the world, the essence of the FOMAC intervention, like what ECOWAS have always planned for the Mali expedition, appears to be on specialist units – armour and special forces intended to back up large forces of local infantrymen and patriotic militiamen.
    This is the direction which ISAF are moving towards in Afghanistan, preparatory to their eventual pullout. This was the same approach adopted by the compact mix of commando, armoured and mechanised units backed up by air support(total aerial dominance really) which moved in from Angola and Zimbabwe to strengthen the hands of the Kabila regime in the DR Congo a little over a decade ago.

    So a template which has emerged appears to be the practice of having compact foreign specialist units backing up large groups of local infantrymen.

    The Malians are recruiting troops while patriotic militia groups such as Gando Isso are proliferating. By the time that the EU training team have tinkered with the Malian Army, there could be as many as 20,000 professional troops and patriotic militiamen who are opposed to the terrorists and who are well-adapted to and knowledgeable about the local environment.

    These could then be assisted by AFISMA mechanised, special warfare, artillery and armoured detachments to drive out the limb cutters of AQIM and their allies. This AFISMA is a UN-backed affair and you can be sure that there shall be a lot of complementary drone and jet strikes carried out by France and the USA as their contribution to the war effort.

  8. peccavi says:

    I think your idea is excellent, a specialist force of armour, artillery and engineers (although I think our own might be a bit stretched) an possibly 2 AH and a HQ element as well.
    In addition a specialist Company possibly drawn from the Airborne forces with a platoon of SF to act as a Theatre Reserve.
    This is the logical step as I have argued in previous threads that our combat power is being seriously constrained. Although not necessarily being denuded to a dangerous level what we will get is a breakdown in structure, in that troops will continuously be on ops be they internal or external, with no opportunities for a home life, to attend specialist or promotion courses or go on training exercises.
    It will lead to a break down in morale and discipline.
    As we can see the units being deployed to Sudan etc are now combat service support units. Again this is not necessarily an indicator of any thing it could just be that DHQ has decided to share the burden and give a unit that would not have much to do an opportunity for an operational tour.
    However in the Mali context using our artillery etc would be good training for them and these units are not integral to the current internal security ops.
    However from a regional power point of view Nigeria’s limited role is not a positive sign. The ideal for Nigeria is to dominate West Africa, diplomatically, militarily, economically, culturally and psychologically.
    I have been less worried about the 3000 man force as I believe all they are going to do is secure Bamako, the actually attack up north will take more men but done properly can still be done on the ‘cheap’ remember you are fighting for population centres and transport routes, its not like the Allied advance from Normandy. So by concentrating force you can score victories.
    Again my belief that BH/ MUJAO would hit Nigeria hard if we took part still stands so maybe that informed this decision.
    So all in all, its a logical decision but a little disappointing

  9. beegeagle says:

    The much more numerous but reasonably competent Police Anti Bomb Squad should be able to cover up for the shortfall of just one platoon of combat engineers. Moreover, the Army have to have trained many more since 300 TRAINERS (K9 and combat engineers) and commandos returned from the USA in 2011.

    We must not forget that JSTF is made up of soldiers, airmen, seamen, SSS and Police ABS, ATS and MOPOL. Police ABS and NA combat engineers invariably work together at the frontlines to suppress and defuse IEDs and should be able to bridge the shortfall, operationally.

  10. Acting Major Benbella says:

    Can someone here please explain to me the difference between sending 450 and 600 soldiers to Nigeria’s capacity to deal with its present internal security needs? The reason is that I do not see the practical advantage to only sending 450 soldiers to Mali versus sending 600. Every nation like every person, after a certain age, is responsible for the way their face looks. This country recognizes that there is ongoing contacts, training and possible weapons delivery being provided to the Boko Haram gang by elements of Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb, which also is very active in Northern Mali. Clearly, there is a connection between the activities of AQM in Mali and the present unstable security situation in northern Nigeria.

    Some have also argued that the scaling down of Nigeria’s military foot print in Mali (600 to 450) will minimize the possibility of the terror groups in northern Mali targeting Nigeria. Unfortunately, I disagree with the argument. The over-riding issue regarding this for the terrorists is not the size of a country’s presence in the fight against them but the presence itself. For this argument to truly run its course on merit, it will require the complete non-involvement of any Nigerian troop presence in Mali.

    The decision to cut back on the number of troops to be deployed to Mali has implications for Nigerian security and the approach adopted to counteract those shortcoming. We have been battling Boko Haram at least since 2009 with the first fire fight between that group and members of the Nigerian security. We have had internal security issues in the North Central region longer than we have with BH. Kidnappings, armed robberies and oil bunkering are issues that have been with us for decades. Now, the obvious question is, why has Nigeria not expanded its security forces in terms of personnel and equipments to meet these security challenges? Why is it taking this long when there is a large pool of college educated unemployed Nigerians to be recruited and trained? My humble perception is that this is part of the problems we have observed with the delay in equipping the country’s armed forces for effectiveness. The surprising thing is that they are Nigerians who are ready to believe the government official reason as provided without asking the critical question as to why the reason given does not dovetail with the realistic actions of a country with an internationalized internal security conundrum and that have consistently never shied from expressing both regional and continental aspirations. The cost implications argument does not add up either. The UN will foot the cost of a military intervention in Mali as it doing in Somalia. Countries like France, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, etc., have agreed to help with logistics and weapons.

    Again, what is the rational for this decision? This one reason why this country is so confusing for outside onlookers and leaves them scratching their heads. And it is not patriotism to believe that supporting your country all the time is the right call. I would rather have Nigerians become more unpatriotic if it means asking clear questions of their leaders and examining critically the policies and actions of these leaders because as facts and history show, they have consistently placed personal above the national interests.

    At least that is how I see it.

    • @Acting Major Benbella… even after a stressful day of working if i were to make a comment on this issue i think it would be needless now because u just asked thesame questions that sprung up in my mind when i saw the post. Really i do not see the rationale for the scaling down neither does the difference between 450 and 600 makes strategic sense to me!

  11. beegeagle says:

    Frankly, Major Benbella, I do not think that you really need to get all worked up. 450 troops, 600 troops..tomato, tomayto. If this were to be a Nigerian-led infantry onslaught, 600 troops and 450 troops would be BOTH inadequate. But the support bit has always been clear and as the weeks have rolled by, one has come to the realisation that fire support+spec ops is what we are likely going to be engaged in. It was always on the cards the AFISMA troops would support the Malian Army anyway.

    Even when we they said 600 troops, I still maintained that it could best be made meaningful with a SpecForces/armour/artillery support role. 450 troops makes that all the more imperative.

    Concerning equipment, I really would have loved to know that the NAF have a minimum of three Su-27s at Sokoto poised to strike anywhere inside Azawad.

    I would have preferred 900 troops in three battle groups and that would still have been FIREPOWER-INTENSIVE but what we have to work with are 450-600 troops


    • jimmy says:

      I am glad the number has dropped while fellow generals can argue about the merits and demerits and believe me i respect all the views here have been well thought out.
      I alluded to what oga peccavvi and I have discussed all along the more I think about the MALIAN army the bile continues to rise in my mouth.I will also draw on the comments of the jcos OLA IBRAHIM THE ISSUE OF SOVEREIGNTY IS A SENSITIVE ISSUE, before one Nigerian corporal goes to Mali they must show they can fight..
      I am not the only one who is not sold on the real( imagined?) fecklessness of the Malian
      army to retake a village let alone an entrenched town like GAO.
      I HEAR YOU CYBER GENERALS that retraining of the Malian army is ongoing. let them prove it the REBELS in Mali are not worried about being resupplied they just raid another army outpost a little bit further south
      What to do ? i don’t quite know yet but let us ask the Malians themselves as bigbrovar has cautioned do the people of Northern MALI have any confidence whatsoever in this army? in Liberia you had the Karmajors you knew they were going to fight not run or make deals” let me retreat and i will leave my heavy guns behind (wink, wink, nod nod).
      Again I am not saying we should fold our hands but we need to be very cautious we should as a popular NIGERIAN proverb goes Nigeria should not cry harder over Mali than the Malian people.
      over to you my brothers

  12. blissful says:

    My brothers, pride comes before a fall; charity begins at home. The arguement is not that our 450 soldiers will minimize the terror already unleash by the malian tuareg rebels/islamist but will minimize our operational cost in mali & that intended cost for additional 150 soldiers will be used internally to fight our own crises(BKM). Afterall, other countries will be sending theirs including france.

  13. jimmy says:

    guys it is being reported that konna yet another city has fallen to the ISLAMIST S this is what i am predicting , this is why i want nigerian troops held to a minimum at some point these B——ds
    called the Malian army have to learn to fight,

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