Mali expands army to boost fight against terrorists

The plan is to hire 10,000 new soldiers in the coming months to boost national security, Prime Minister Boubou Cisse said.
Somalian Army
MOGADISHU, SOMALIA – AUGUST 07: Newly graduated Somalian soldiers attend their graduation ceremony after receiving training period from Turkish military training academy, Somali Turkish Task Force Command, in Mogadishu, Somalia on August 07, 2018. Newly graduate 47 sergeants, 37 land forces, 5 naval forces took their diplomas. Sadak Mohamed / Anadolu Agency

Malian Prime Minister Boubou Cisse on Wednesday announced that the country will increase the size of its army by about 50 per cent in a recruitment drive this year aimed at uprooting jihadist groups that have launched several attacks, killing troops and civilians.

The government plans to hire 10,000 new soldiers in the coming months to “allow armed and security forces to be much more present in quantity and I hope in quality in areas where they were not,” Cisse said.

He did not say how much the increase will cost or how the West African country would pay for it when military costs already take up a significant part of the budget, a Reuters report said.

The army declined to say how many troops it has now, but the World Bank, in 2017, estimated there were 18,000 armed forces personnel.

Former colonial power France intervened in 2013 to drive back militants who had seized northern Mali in 2012, but groups allied with al Qaeda and Islamic State have sprung back stronger than France.

Much of central and northern Mali is largely used by groups as a base from which to launch attacks across neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.

France has 4,500 troops in Mali and the wider Sahel and local international forces have also teamed up to contain the problem.

About 20 soldiers were killed in a pre-dawn attack on an army camp in the centre of the country on Sunday and 24 others were killed when militants attacked a patrol in the north in November.

France on Monday warned against possible U.S. troop cuts in West Africa, worried about the impact on logistical support and intelligence gathering.

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