German parliament extends Africa military missions

German military personnel are deployed to UN and EU missions in Mali and to the EU's Operation Atalanta anti-piracy mission

Germany’s lower house of parliament extended three military missions in Africa until 2020, but lawmakers criticized deployments of special forces in Niger and Cameroon.

The Bundestag on Thursday, May 9 voted overwhelmingly to extend two military missions in Mali and one in Somalia until May 31, 2020, Deutsche Welle reported, approving the decision taken by Germany’s federal cabinet in March.

The extension of Bundeswehr involvement in the European Union Naval Force ATALANTA anti-piracy mission which launched in December 2008 to protect waters off the Horn of Africa and in the Western Indian Ocean is expected to cost €40 million. Around 80 German personnel are deployed, operating the logistical base for naval vessels, and a German P-3C Orion Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft deployed to Base Aerienne 188 in Djibouti.

The bulk of German forces in Africa are in Mali, deployed on two separate international missions.

DW reported around 840 Bundeswehr personnel out of a mandate for 1,100 are deployed to the United Nations peacekeeping mission MINUSMA, but according to U.N. figures for March, 392 troops, 10 police officers and 16 staff officers were deployed.

The third-largest U.N. peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA in March had 12,644 military and 1,734 police personnel, 454 staff officers and 39 experts deployed from more than 50 U.N. partner nations. Its annual budget is more than $1 billion.

The German contingent is based at Camp Castor in Gao and includes reconnaissance forces with ground and airborne capabilities, as well as dedicated force protection personnel, and support and mission staff.

German forces also conduct tactical air transport missions from a new base in Niger’s capital Niamey, officially opened by Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen in November. Around 40 German personnel are deployed in Niger.

A further 190 German personnel work are deployed to the European Union Training Mission in Mali, out of a mandate for 350, making up more than a quarter of the total troops deployed on the mission.

Established in 2013, the 620-strong EUTM Mali has a mandate until May 2020. Troops from 22 member states and five non-E.U. states work with both the Armed Forces of Mali (FAMa) and the G5 Sahel Joint Force. It has trained around 13,000 FAMa personnel.

The EUTM’s Koulikoro Training Center near the southern town of Siby was attacked early on February 24, but  the assailants were stopped before they could enter the base.

German troops also advise Mali’s defense ministry and senior military commanders.

The German federal government estimates the extensions will cost €314 million ($352 million) for MINUSMA and €41 million for EUTM Mali.

Controversy over deployments to Niger and Cameroon

The deployment of German special forces units on training missions in Niger and Cameroon drew criticism from some parliamentarians, DW reported.

They argue that overseas deployments require a mandate from the Bundestag, making the presence of German troops in Niger and Cameroon illegal, while the government maintains that training missions are exempt from the requirement for parliamentary approval.

The German special forces deployed to Niger are separate to those deployed as part of MINUSMA.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesperson Steffen Seibert said the special forces only train local troops and are not “actively participating in operations.”

However, the government will provide lawmakers with information on the scope of the Niger and Cameroon missions, the speaker said.

UN Security Council requests options for Mali peacekeeping force overhaul

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