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First EU military trainers due in Mali

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The first troops in an almost 500-strong EU force to train Mali's army were due in the capital Bamako on Friday, aiming to upgrade the West African nation's armed forces.

The mission was planned last year as part of efforts to help stabilise the country after Islamist rebels seized control of the north in the wake of a March military coup.

But a rebel offensive south towards the capital last month prompted France to intervene militarily in its former colony and the EU to accelerate plans to dispatch the trainers.

Here are basic facts about the European Union Training Mission (EUTM) for Mali:

OBJECTIVE:

The EUTM's first task is to "train and advise the armed forces ... so as to enable them to rebuild their military capacity so that they can mount combat operations to restore the country's territorial integrity," the mission statement reads.

"There is a real need to re-establish the Malian army, which is very run-down," said French General Francois Lecointre who heads what he describes as a "medium- to long-term mission."

"The soldiers are badly trained, badly paid and poorly equipped," he said, citing deficiencies in weapons, transport and communications.

The mission's 170-odd trainers will have no combat role but will be accompanied by force protection units.

TIMETABLE

The EU approved the mission in December and preparations picked up quickly after French military intervention on January 11. It will be formally launched shortly and operational from March 15. Training of the first Malian battalion should begin at the end of March or in early April.

The mission has a 15-month mandate but it can be extended.

- ORGANISATION

The EUTM will be headquartered in Bamako where about 20 experts will advise and help reorganise the Malian army's command structures.

The main force will be located in Koulikoro, some 200 kilometres (120 miles) from the capital, where some 400 troops will be based, 170 of them as trainers and the rest as a protection force for them.

The trainers will take on four battalions of 650 Malian soldiers in rotation for a two month course which will include both military aspects and a focus on human rights and the duty to protect civilians.

BUDGET

The mission has a budget of 12.3 million euros, while each contributor country will pay for the deployment of its own training contingent.

CONTRIBUTOR COUNTRIES

Sixteen EU countries and Norway have said they will take part in the mission.

France will send between 150 and 200 troops, with Germany offering 40 trainers and 40 for protection purposes, and the Czech Republic about 50 instructors.

Spain, Britain, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Portugal, the Baltic states, the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark are also providing personnel.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130208/first-eu-military-trainers-due-mali