The French currently have some 2,400 forces in the country and have said that they will stay as long as needed in Mali, a former French colony. However, they have called for African nations to take the lead in fortifying the Malian army’s efforts. There are currently some 1,750 troops from countries in the region, including Togo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Benin, Senegal, Niger and Chad.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense on Friday said it was deploying a spy plane, a Sentinel R-1 aircraft, to Mali to help with the military intervention. The specially modified jet’s radar can be used to hunt ground targets. Britain already has deployed two C-17 cargo planes to aid the offensive.
On Friday, the head of the European Union’s planned military training mission to Mali briefed officials on his reconnaissance mission to Bamako. He told them that, despite the rapidly evolving conditions on the ground, the training mission is needed more than ever, according to Sebastien Brabant, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
French Brig. Gen Francois Lecointre told the officials in Brussels the mission is welcomed by the Malian armed forces and will be instrumental in building a Malian army which can be a sustainable, democratic tool under civilian authority, Brabant said.
The launch of the training mission is expected by mid-February, subject to a decision by the council of EU foreign ministers. Training activities could start a few weeks after that, the spokesman said.
Associated Press writer Krista Larson in Mopti, Mali; Jamey Keaten in Dakar, Senegal; Raphael Satter in London; and Don Melvin in Brussels contributed to this report.