Army Ranger Wing set for two-year UN mission to Mali

Elite unit will be sent to the world’s most dangerous UN mission

Irish Army Ranger wing on patrol in Chad in 2008. Photograph: Conor Lally

Irish Army Ranger wing on patrol in Chad in 2008. Photograph: Conor Lally

 

The Army Ranger Wing is being deployed to the UN mission in Mali for two years, with a team of 14 personnel to rotate every four months.

A decision to send the elite unit to what is effectively the most dangerous UN mission in the world was agreed by Government on Wednesday.

It will be the first overseas mission for the Army Ranger Wing since it was deployed to the UN mission in Chad in 2008.

Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe TD has secured Cabinet approval for the deployment.

The Government had been initially unsure about sending the Army Ranger Wing because Mali has been so volatile.

Some 195 personnel have been killed while serving on the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) since it was established by in 2013.

However, Defence Forces personnel and along with civilians at the Department of Defence reviewed the mission and carried out a threat assessment.

Mr Kehoe decided to recommend the deployment to the Government on the basis Ireland could not stand by as others in the international community sought to help stabilise Mali.

Instability

The UN believes the ongoing and increasing instability in the Sahel region of Sub-Saharan Africa as representing a very significant threat to African stability.

Mali is one of a number of countries from the Sahel region, the others being Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, and Niger, which the EU is seeking to stabilise.

The Republic also funds many development programmes and aid agencies in western African, where a large number of Irish personnel work with non-government organisations.

The elite Ranger Wing unit will be the only Irish troops on the mission. However, a small number of Irish military personnel are already deployed in Mali, offering training in bomb disposal and clearing landmines.

As was the case in Chad, the Ranger Wing will go into a very volatile and dangerous security climate in Mali, where 95 people were killed overnight on Sunday in ethic attacks.

Under the “triple lock” mechanism, the deployment must now be approved by the Dáil having been approved by Government and sanctioned by the UN.

MINUSMA was established amid domestic turmoil and fears Islamist extremist terror groups saw Mali as an attractive base and recruiting ground.

The 16,500-strong MINUSMA peace enforcement mission has at times struggled as it was targeted in terrorist attacks.