18 February 2013

Liberia: U.S. to Airlift Liberian Troops for Mali Mission

The Government of the United States of America has agreed to airlift Liberian troops poised to shortly take up peacekeeping mission in Mali, Defense Minister Brownie J. Samukai has disclosed. According to Defense Minister Samukai, Liberia has sought the support and assistance of the US Government aimed at preparing and supporting the Liberian soldiers for the Mali mission, adding that: the US government has indicated its willingness to work along with the GoL to ensure that the necessary preparedness and support is provided for the Liberian troops deployment to Mali.

Since last year, Mali has been engulfed with raging gun battle at the hands of mixed gunmen since rebels in that country reinforced with weapons seized from Libya following the 2011 fall of the Muammar Gaddafi regime.

Separatist rebels, who initially launched the Mali onslaught, have since been sidelined by the Islamist alliance of al Qaeda's North African wing AQIM and home-grown Malian groups Ansar Dine and MUJWA.

Recently, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf disclosed that the Government of Liberia (GoL) would contribute troops to the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA).

At the time, the Liberian leader averred that the GoL's decision to send Liberian peacekeeping troops to Mali was due to what she called showing solidarity to the people of that West African country, and to also show appreciation to Mali and all other countries and peoples who helped Liberia during its conflict years.

Already, members of the 53rd Legislature comprising both Houses of Representatives and Senate have endorsed President Johnson-Sirleaf's request to send at least a platoon of Liberian soldiers to Mali.

Addressing the Thursday, 14 February 2013 edition of the regular Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) press briefing in Monrovia, defense minister Samukai intimated that the US government's willingness to assist with preparing and supporting the Liberian troops will include "airlifting of our forces from Liberia to Bamako and during the period of rotation as well."

He stated that discussions were currently ongoing between the GoL and US embassy and military officials aimed at understanding the context of Liberia's needs for the Mali peacekeeping mission.

He used the occasion to disclose that the platoon comprising Liberian infantry soldiers to be deployed in Mali has been identified, and that the soldiers have completed the process of medical fitness examination.

He intoned that the soldiers, who have begun what he referred to as pre-deployment training at Camp Ware, are expected to undergo an additional vetting process.

As part of the country's contribution to the IFISMA operations in Mali, Defense Minister Samukai further stated that two individuals from the Liberian army, including one senior military officer and a senior Non-Commissioned Officer are expected to be deployed at the IFISMA headquarters ahead of the Liberian troops' arrival in troubled Mali.

Meanwhile, the last time Liberia contributed troops towards any peacekeeping initiative was in the 1960s, in the Congo.

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