WASHINGTON (AFP) – Amanda Dory, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, told a Senate hearing that America is helping Nigeria in control of its borders.
This he said, Wednesday, when Pentagon told Congress on it would serve a support role as trainer and advisor should an international force intervene in Mali to counter Islamist militants who control the country’s north.
“At this point the intervention would be led by the Malian armed forces with support from the international military force,” Amanda Dory, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs, told a Senate hearing.
“There is no construct, or intention of having a US-boots-on-the-ground type of support to that intervention,” she added. “At this point we’re providing planning support exclusively and we will look at opportunities to provide training and equipment support with those partners with whom we can engage.”
The United States broke off diplomatic ties with Mali after a coup in the West African nation in March, but maintains military cooperation with Mali’s neighbors.
Americans, for example are helping Nigeria control its borders, Dory said.
It is through such African partners that the United States could support an international force but the issue of just how the Pentagon could provide logistical aid, including air support, has not been decided, she added.
Last month, the heads of state of the 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States adopted a plan to regain the occupied region and dismantle what the African Union has called “terrorist and criminal networks” that have infiltrated the vast desert area.
ECOWAS says it is ready to deploy 3,300 troops to reclaim northern Mali and is waiting for approval from the United Nations, but UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said Wednesday that a military intervention is unlikely before September 2013.
Tuareg rebels and Al-Qaeda linked Islamists seized much of northern Mali in March, after the coup. International powers fear that the territory could become a safe haven base for militant action across the region.
Senator Chris Coons, head of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa, said Washington needs “a strong and comprehensive policy” to ensure that terror networks like Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb do not use the Mali safe haven “to plan for regional or transnational terrorist attacks.”
Coons told the Senate there should be no US boots on the ground there, but he advocated for a “more active role” in the crisis, including operational support for any international force that enters Mali.