Nigerian army’s Mali mission stalls amid doubts it can fight • Lack of training and discipline among troops compromises Ecowas plan to oust Islamists in northern Mali, says source

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 The
“shocking” state of the Nigerian army has delayed plans for a military
intervention in Mali,
amid reports that it lacks the capability to fight on the frontline.
A senior
source in Mali told the Guardian that a lack of training and discipline among
Nigerian troops – who are being heavily relied on by regional bloc Ecowas to
oust Islamists in control of northern Mali – is becoming increasingly apparent.
“The
Nigerian army is in a shocking state,” said the source, who has seen
recent assessments of Ecowas’s military capability. “In reality there is
no way they are capable of forward operations in Mali – their role is more
likely to be limited to manning checkpoints and loading trucks.”

“The
Nigerian forces lack training and kit, so they simply don’t have the capability
to carry out even basic military manoeuvres,” the source added. “They
have poor discipline and support. They are more likely to play a behind-the-scenes
role in logistics and providing security.”

News
about the low capacity of Ecowas troops adds increasing pressure on the Malian
army, whose lack of training and equipment led directly to the country’s 22
March coup d’etat, which toppled the previous civilian government and allowed al-Qaida-linked
Islamists to gain control of the country’s north.
Under
plans for a UN security council-backed military intervention in Mali, now being
drawn up by the Malian government with Ecowas and the African Union, as well as
the EU and US, the country’s military is expected to lead forward operations.
France,
Germany, the US and the EU have all backed plans to provide the Mali army with
training, equipment and logistics support.
“The
Malian army should play a substantial part in any ground operation, following
their training by the EU,” said the source. “Once the security
council gets the report it asked for, in mid to late November, the planning and
co-ordination can really begin in earnest.”
A
spokesperson for the Nigerian national security agencies admitted that the army
was suffering from a lack of resources, but said it had achieved success in
previous military interventions.
“The
situation is that Nigeria has
the trained personnel, what we require however is additional funding and
logistic support,” said the spokesperson. “We are working toward a
coordinated approach that at the international level includes the UN, the EU
and France, as well as our regional partners.”
“Nigeria
has a lot of past experience in successful military and diplomatic
interventions on the continent.”
Questions
about the capability of Ecowas military forces come amid reports that a senior
Malian government official has been conducting talks with a delegation
from the Islamist extremist group Ansar Dine – the largest of the
al-Qaida-linked factions that have control of the Kidal region of northern Mali
– in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, with President Blaise Compaore. Ansar
Dine is under pressure to break links with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb,
although some experts believe there is little to distinguish the groups, which
say their goal is to impose sharia law in Mali and the whole west African
subregion.
In a
recent interview with the Guardian, a senior figure from Movement for Tawhid
and Jihad in West Africa –
which controls the Gao and northern Mopti regions of Mali – said it would not
negotiate with any group that did not accept sharia.
Political
and diplomatic figures involved in drawing up plans for a military intervention
in northern Mali have said over recent weeks that the use of force seems
“unavoidable” and is likely to commence in the new year.
Source:
The Guardian UK

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