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

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

QUESTION: On Mali.

MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Today, the French troops have entered Kidal, which was the last stronghold held by the Islamic militants. And they seem to be meeting a fair amount of - a lack of resistance, really. And I wondered if you could talk to us about the situation on the ground, whether there's a fear that these extremist groups could actually just be dispersing and heading into the hills and regrouping. And that actually it could take a lot longer to get rid of them.

MS. NULAND: Well we, obviously, are pleased by the success that French and Malian forces have had and the retreat of the rebels and the extremists. We understand that French and Malian forces now control Timbuktu and Gao. The mayors of both of those cities who had fled to Bamako have come back to their respective cities and resumed work. And as you say, we understand that French troops are now at the airport in Kidal.

We also understand that Malian officials have sent gendarmes into Gao and into Timbuktu to assure security. They've also made strong statements against reprisals, and we echo the calls that Malians are making, that French are making, urging Malian private citizens to refrain from retaliating against Tuaregs or other ethnic minorities. We obviously condemn any attacks on civilians. We also support the calls from Malian officials and civil society leaders appealing for calm and their statements that there will be no impunity for human rights abuses.

Obviously, you point to the right next challenge, Jo, which is not only to ensure that these cities that have been regained and towns can be held, but that the international mission, the AFISMA mission, moves in behind Malian forces and the French to stabilize northern Mali, to go after the rebels where they have fled to and ensure that they can't come back and regroup. So it's in that context that we welcome the fact that there are some 1,400 AFISMA country troops now in Mali from Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Senegal, Burkina Faso, and Chad. There are Nigerians on their way, and we are continuing our efforts through our ACOTA training to ensure sustainment training backfill for those forces as well.

QUESTION: And is there any update on American aid to the ECOWAS forces or to the AFISMA?

MS. NULAND: We announced yesterday that we intend to provide, subject to congressional notification, a total now of $96 million in support for AFISMA troops. I think on Monday I announced 40. We've now notified Congress of an addition 50 million. Eight million has already been allocated to provide for basic logistical support for the initial ECOWAS contingence, including immediate transport and equipment. Five million will go to assist formed police units that will start to deploy. These are ECOWAS country police units, not Malian police units. And we've notified this additional money that'll go for equipment, logistical support, and advisory support for AFISMA troops.

I would also note, as you know, that there was a donors conference earlier this week run by the AU. And the total funding pledged was some 455.5 million. So that is an excellent show of resolve by the international community. Big donors were the EU, the AU, Germany, Bahrain.

QUESTION: The Malian President is saying that he hopes to arrange elections by July 31st, which is actually slightly later than the timetable that you guys were hoping for. You were hoping for April.

Does - what do you - what's the U.S. comment on that?

MS. NULAND: Well, we talked about this a little bit on Monday. We all, obviously, want to see these elections as soon as possible so that democracy can be restored. But we also have to appreciate that it - they can't be held until they are technically feasible. So we do note that the new Malian assembly's roadmap speaks about July. It'll be important to meet that target in terms of security, et cetera.

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