EU starts training Malian army

Photo: EU starts training Malian army / Other News

The European Union on Tuesday started to train 650 Malian soldiers, a spokesperson for the bloc's training mission said, dpa reported.

The European Union announced the mission after France launched a military operation earlier this year to oust rebels from Mali's north and stop their advance toward the capital Bamako.

The training mission aims to ensure the army is strong enough to maintain security after France starts to withdraw its troops in the summer.

The EU is set to train about 3,000 soldiers as part of its mission's initial 15-month mandate. More than 20 European countries are contributing to the operation.

The training of the first battalion "will last between 10 and 15 weeks," said EU training mission spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Philippe de Cussac.

He added this phase would be followed by a specialist training around April 20.

French General Francois Lecointre said last week in Brussels that Mali's army was unstructured, under-equipped and "collapsed on itself because it suffered 20 years of systematic under-budgeting and distrustful political powers."

The first battalion would be trained in the town of Koulikoro, drawing soldiers from four Malian regions with two to three years of military experience, Lecointre said.

The training would not include any soldiers of Tuareg origin. Ethnic Tuaregs have been blamed for joining forces with Islamists who took control of the north last year and then made a push to capture the capital Bamako.

France launched a military operation on January 11. President Francois Hollande has said that France would start withdrawing half of its 4,000 troops by July.

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