“Reassuring feeling” – Austrian soldiers have returned safely from Mali


At the end of June, 64 soldiers from the EU Training Mission in Mali (EUTM) returned. Defense Minister Klaudia Tanner (ÖVP) spoke in Vienna on Monday about a “soothing feeling”. The security situation in the West African country had deteriorated sharply after the withdrawal of French soldiers, the Russian mercenary group Wagner and jihadist groups. Tanner emphasized Austria’s willingness to become more involved in the future.

According to Tanner, a situation analysis at European level will take place in the autumn at the latest. “It is very clear to us that we want to quickly agree on a new mission profile to avoid a security vacuum in the region.” The strategic reorientation is now important, “then we decide in which direction we go”. As long as there is a valid mandate, Austria will “certainly” participate in the field of training. However, the safety of the Austrian soldiers has the highest priority.

“Don’t leave Mali”
Austrian Brigadier General Christian Riener, who headed the EUTM for six months, also emphasized: “One should not leave Mali.” The jihadist and terrorist groups active in Mali “radiate like cancer to neighboring countries”. clear that Russians will be active in space. In the mandate of the mission there was “no place for Wagner, nor for members of the Russian Federation”. For EU participation, it must be clear that the mandate will not be abused. “Wagner is the enemy.”

Mali has experienced three military coups since 2012. Insurgents linked to jihadists are fighting in the country. Thousands of civilians have been killed in their attacks in recent years. France decided to withdraw its troops from the country in February.

Positive developments in Mali
However, Riener also saw positive developments in Mali. After the cancellation of the elections scheduled for February, there is now a new election calendar: a constitutional referendum in March 2023, presidential elections are scheduled for 2024. The military had announced a return to civilian rule within two years. These concessions prompted the West African Economic Community ECOWAS to lift sanctions against Mali on Sunday.

Austria in Mali since 2013
Austria has been involved in two missions in Mali since March 2013. On average, about 70 members of the armed forces in the EU mission were EUTM. In addition, two Austrian soldiers are deployed in the UN MINUSMA mission, which is responsible for military ceasefire guarantees and is currently one of the most dangerous UN missions.

The head of EUTM’s training department, Colonel Klaus Schadenbauer, reported that training was offered in logistics, infantry, air force and also for future managers. The future company commanders were trained in international humanitarian law, international law of war and dealing with civilians. Due to the security situation, the activity has been slightly adjusted, for example training at company level has been discontinued.

About 1000 soldiers from 26 countries
In total, about 1000 soldiers from 26 countries were part of the EUTM. In April, the mission was temporarily halted because there were insufficient guarantees that Russian mercenary soldier Wagner would not intervene in the conflict, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said.

prize awarded
Tanner presented Riener and Schadenbauer with the “Ministercoin” award medal in recognition of their services. Riener is a guarantee that the mission will continue, according to the minister. Czech Brigadier General Radek Hasala is now in command. 17 Austrian soldiers are still in the African state.

Source: Krone


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