In conflict-affected central Mali, a soldier pulls the firing line on a howitzer, but no bullet fires on the horizon. This is a training session aimed at giving the Malian army the upper hand in its multi-year struggle against the rebels.
It is organized by the European Union training mission in Mali, or EUTM, and led for nine weeks by Captain de la Pena.
“We are training indirect fire to give them the ability to support infantry units over longer distances without being exposed to the enemy. So we give them the option of using the howitzer to its maximum capacity. “
The EU has provided intelligence, driving, explosives detection and artillery training to nearly 14,000 Malian soldiers since 2012. It was the year that French forces drove the jihadists out of the country. northern desert of the country.
But despite the presence of 13,000 United Nations peacekeepers and 5,100 French soldiers, militants linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State have rebounded, fueling a security crisis in Mali and the entire Sahel region. .
Deadly attacks increased eightfold between 2015 and 2020 and more than five million people were displaced. Parts of northern and central Mali are ungovernable and more than 70 Malian soldiers have been killed this year alone.
Colonel Traoré, who heads Mali’s 6th military zone, says the relationship between the EU and Mali is an exchange of knowledge.
“The armies are neighbors, the armies are complementary. I understand that EUTM is there to complement our knowledge and our efforts. The war we are waging is global: it is the war against terrorism. It’s not just at home. “
On the last day of the exercises, the soldiers of the 614th Artillery Battalion appeared confident and relaxed.
But Colonel Traore has a warning. With training coming to an end, it’s time to prepare for the battlefield.