Washington, DC — Excerpt from the United States Department of State daily press briefing:
QUESTION: On Mali, we're reporting that AFRICOM - that the United States has started airlifting troops and equipment into Mali, and that two flights have landed already. I wondered if you could update us on where you are with that situation.
MS. NULAND: The Department of Defense has started airlifting French equipment into Mali. I will refer you to our brothers and sisters at the Department of Defense for details on that. I think we can also confirm that African forces are starting to flow into country. We have some 700, 800 African troops from Benin, Nigeria, Togo, Burkino Faso. We have some Senegalese en route already moving into country. The Government of Chad has also committed between 1,000 and 2,000, depending upon needs, and those forces are en route into country but haven't yet arrived.
This is further to the support that we have been offering both in terms of training, pre-deployment, sustainment, lift, et cetera.
QUESTION: And the Secretary mentioned that the trainers, U.S. trainers, were ready to leave last weekend to the - some of the ECOWAS countries.
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: Did that take place?
MS. NULAND: It did. I think I spoke to this on Friday. I gave a list of the countries that we were deploying to to help with pre-deployment, et cetera.
QUESTION: And some of the experts that we've been talking to are telling us that because the deployment from Chad is quite a large number, between 1,000 to 2,000 troops, as you mentioned --
MS. NULAND: Right.
QUESTION: -- it'll be - could make up a third, if not more, of the final force. There's some suggestion coming from experts abroad that this is because the United States has actually pushed Chad to be quite a substantial partner in this force given the training that the Americans have given to Chadian forces. Would that be a correct assessment of the situation?
MS. NULAND: Well, I think you know that we have been pushing all of the ECOWAS countries for more than a month now to look at what they could do in terms of available forces, in terms of the kinds of capabilities that were required. Chad is a country that does have a relatively robust and well-trained set of forces. They also have interests to protect in the neighborhood. And we have been working with them to get them ready, so we are very grateful for the large size of this deployment and to all the other countries that are deploying.
Still on Mali?
QUESTION: Can I go back to Benghazi?
MS. NULAND: Probably not. Anything else on Mali before we leave Mali?
QUESTION: Yeah, maybe one more. Sorry. I've just been reading up on it this morning after a weekend off. The --
MS. NULAND: Is that how you spend your weekends?
QUESTION: Yes. The head of the Malian forces is actually quite optimistic that they could take back Gao and Timbuktu within a month. Is that an assessment that the United States would share?
MS. NULAND: I don't think I'm prepared to make a military assessment standing here. I obviously would refer you to the French and to the ECOWAS countries that are actually deploying now. We do understand today, though, that a combination of Malian and French forces have been able to liberate Diabaly and also Douentza, so they are making some progress. I think it'll be important, obviously, to be able to hold that territory, continue to make progress going forward.