France Brings Military To Bear In Mali

By Christina Mackenzie Paris
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

Since its establishment, Minusma has been implementing its mandate in terms of political offices, electoral support, human rights and support for the restoration of state authority. On July 1, Minusma attained initial operational capability (IOC). Sector headquarters, in Gao and Timbuktu, should soon be operational, with all headquarters staff built up over the next two months.

Ladsous stated in June that Minusma was suffering from capability shortfalls including medium utility helicopters, armed helicopters, intelligence, information operations and special forces. “We count on the continued support of both our traditional and new troop-contributing countries to help fill these critical gaps,” he said.

Providing logistical support to Minusma troops in northern Mali presents “formidable challenges,” Ladsous said, given the harsh desert climate, the state of infrastructure and the vast area. “We must be realistic and understand that not all of these capabilities will be immediately available.”

Ameerah Haq, U.N. undersecretary general for field support, says the immediate priority is Minusma's IOC. Efforts are focused on providing rations to troops, fuel for vehicles and premises for work and living. “Minusma is one of the most logistically challenging missions the U.N. has launched,” she says.

With no functioning power grid in Gao, generators are necessary. Mobile communication systems cannot be deployed to Kidal because sensitive components would melt, she explains. “Information and communication technology, vehicles and refrigeration would be exposed to climatic conditions that expedite their decay.”

Military helicopters provide most air transport since large aircraft cannot use airfields in northern Mali. Most roads, in fact, are little more than sand.

Haq says security is also a challenge because, despite an agreement with the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, there are armed groups sworn to attack U.N. forces.

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