11 January 2013

Mali: U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing: Mali

Photo: HCR/Y.Djigo
Malians fleeing fighting in the north.


Excerpt from the United States Department of State daily press briefing:

QUESTION: And on Mali --

MS. NULAND: Mali, yeah.

QUESTION: -- the French President Francois Hollande this morning confirmed that French troops are backing Malian troops and have gone into Mali to try and help them stop this offensive towards the south. Could you comment on that, please, and where we are, where the United States is in relation to the fighting?

MS. NULAND: Well, obviously, we remain deeply concerned by the recent events in Mali. We echo the international community's condemnation of these recent aggressive acts. As you know, we joined in a very strong Security Council statement on this last night.

We do understand that France has offered some immediate military support to the Malian armed forces at the request of the Malian Government. We are obviously consulting very closely with the Government of France going forward.

QUESTION: Have you been - has the United States been asked for any similar kind of support, military support?

MS. NULAND: We have not been asked by the Malians for direct support, no, not to my --

QUESTION: Have you been asked by the French?

MS. NULAND: Not to my knowledge. We are obviously in consultations with our ally. I don't have anything to share at the moment with regard to that.

QUESTION: Would it be something that you would support? I mean, would the United States be willing? Because you have supported - said you'd support some kind of training, but would you be willing to actually go in and provide some kind of military force at this moment now, when the situation seems to be very urgent?

MS. NULAND: Again, the Government of Mali has asked for support from France. Our understanding is that France is going to move forward with that. I'm not going to get into hypotheticals about what France might need or requests that haven't yet come to us.

QUESTION: What is the - I'm sorry, on Mali. What is the fate of the multinational force as a result of last night's meeting?

MS. NULAND: Well, as - I mean, our effort is still to work with ECOWAS to get them ready to deploy, but they have not been at the - at that moment where they're ready to go yet, Said. They need training, they need - we need to agree on what the funding mechanism for this is. As you know, we're still awaiting some clarity from ECOWAS and African Union about the rules of engagement, the concept of operation that they have in mind. But obviously, the Malian Government's need is urgent right now, which is why France is responding.

QUESTION: Do you expect countries like Algeria to step forward and participate in actually fighting the al-Qaida types and so on instead of proudly supplying them with arms?

MS. NULAND: Well, ECOWAS is now working on who might be in this force. I'm not in a position to get ahead of that. Obviously, as you know, we've been in close contact - the Secretary was there in the fall - with the Government of Algeria on what it can do to put pressure on the different groups in the north from its side. Algeria itself has called for the - some of the northern groups to split from al-Qaida in the Maghreb, and we hope those calls will be heeded.


QUESTION: I just - some clarification. I didn't - I don't think I quite understood. The question of - has France asked you for any assistance to support their assistance to Mali?

MS. NULAND: I don't have anything to report at the moment.

QUESTION: Can I go over a couple of points --

MS. NULAND: On Mali still?

QUESTION: -- before we run out time?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Okay.

QUESTION: No? Moving on? Is that okay?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. Please.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Mali?

MS. NULAND: Just quick, Scott, on Mali. Yeah.

QUESTION: One of the concerns that Secretary Clinton heard in Algeria was about French troops going to Mali. So have you - has there been conversation between the United States and the Algerians since the deployment of these French ground troops? It's a concern of the Algerians.

MS. NULAND: I am not aware of any contact from this building with the Government of Algeria. I'm sure at the Embassy level we're obviously evaluating things. I would assume that the French are also in contact with the Government of Algeria. But to remind that it's the Government of Mali that has made this request because of their concerns that they are in extremis now.

QUESTION: One more on Mali. Sorry.

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The French are advising expatriates who have no urgent business in Mali to leave. Is there a similar warning being put out for the Americans? And what is your evaluation as regards the Embassy in Bamako?

MS. NULAND: Our Embassy remains open. We haven't made any posture changes there. I think you know what we do have a security advisory out for Americans with regard to the north of Mali. I'm sure that we are looking at that again now.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:17 p.m.)

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