A platoon of the Armed Forces of Liberia, expected to take up a military assignment to war-torn Mali, is currently undergoing pre-deployment training at Camp Ware Military Barracks, Careysburg, Montserrado County, Defense Minister Brownie Samukai, has disclosed.
The move is seen as an indication that the country is now ready to send its restructured army on a peacekeeping mission abroad.
Minister Samukai made the disclosure in Monrovia Thursday at the Ministry of Information regular press briefing. He also addressed a wide range of issues including AFL deployment to Mali, a pending recruitment exercise to beef up the strength of the army amidst reports of a high level of attrition within the military, including preparation for the renovation of the Camp Todee Military Barracks.
In January of this year, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf sent a proposal to the National Legislature for that body's approval in the AFL participation in Mali's peacekeeping operations, where the French and Mali soldiers are fighting to dislodge Al-Qaeda backed Islamist militants who have been fighting to remove the country's legitimate authority.
According to Minister Samukai, the soldiers have already completed their medicals, and that pre-deployment exercises focusing on Mali's geography, culture and predisposition of Islamist militants is presently ongoing.
"I want to inform you that Madam President, in line with her pledged to send a platoon of AFL to Mali to participate in the ECOWAS led Peace Keeping Mission in that country is going on well," Minister Samukai said.
"The AFL Platoon has been identified, they've gone through their medical, and, they will be going through additional vetting process. And, they've begun their pre-deployment training at Camp Ware. Part of this pre-deployment training will take into consideration the geography of Mali, the predisposition of those that are being seen as extremists and terrorists, the culture and the likely mission that would be undertaken by the AFL after they've been embedded into the Nigerian Battalion."
Though Minister Samukai did not give an exact date in regards to the AFL deployment, credible sources however hinted that the Mali-AFL deployment is set for March 2013.
Defense Minister Samukai also disclosed a full AFL recruitment exercise that is expected soon, and also revealed that the GOL has already given $US1.4 Million for the first phase renovation of the Camp Todee Military Barracks.
Minister Samukai, who paid tribute to the Government and people of Guinean for their fallen soldiers, also rubbished recent media reports that AFL Soldiers who are going to Mali mission would gain huge financial benefits.
Instead, he pointed out, "This mission is purely on the basis of solidarity. As you may be ware Mali sent men and women to serve as ECOMOG during the heat of our civil crisis. So, in as much we are facing some constraints as a country, we have to demonstrate to our brothers that, we, too, care for them."