Denmark sending troops to UN mission in Mali

Parliament is expected to support a Danish contribution to the UN peacekeeping mission today, although Enhedslisten has doubts with the French

The government has proposed contributing up to 75 military personnel and a C-130J cargo aircraft to a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, where militant groups are battling for control of parts of the country.

If parliament approves the mission as expected, Danish military personnel will be deployed to the Sahel region in Northern Mali in February 2014. Denmark also sent a C-130 Hercules cargo plane to help the country in its battle against Islamic rebels in January.

Rasmus Helveg Petersen (R), the acting foreign minister, said in a press release that he hoped for parliament’s support for a Danish contribution to the Minusma UN peacekeeping mission, which has operated since July.

“It would be a valuable contribution that will aid the country, the region and the civilian population there,” Petersen said. “Last year, Mali was close to being overrun by extremists, but the international community did what they needed to do and now we contribute to security, political stability and development.”

READ MORE: Air Force cargo plane heading to Mali

Venstre ready to support
The government proposal for Danish military aid in Mali will be considered in parliament today and the Danish defence intelligence agency, Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste (FE), warned that the threat of terror against Western targets, including a prospective Danish contribution in Mali, is “high”.

Despite the threat, opposition party Venstre is ready to support the initiative.

"We are always alert to the safety concerns facing our troops when we send them abroad and its no secret that there is a risk attached to operating in and around Mali,” Troels Lund Poulsen, Venstre’s defence spokesperson, told Politiken newspaper. “But we still think that the contribution can make a difference and is something that we can be proud of.”

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Enhedslisten say ‘Non!’ to the French
While Konservative and Dansk Folkeparti also announced their intention to lend support to the mission, left-wing Enhedslisten was sceptical that the UN-mission would end up supporting the French-led anti-insurgency mission that is operating in Mali.

“For us, it’s essential that it is the UN – and not the French troops – that Denmark supports,” Nicolai Villumsen, Enhedslisten’s defence spokesperson, told Politiken. 

Mali has been a hotbed of violence since the Malian government began losing control of its nation in the beginning of 2012. The country’s president was deposed by a military coup in March 2012 and Islamic militant groups gained control of several cities in the northern regions, including Gao and Timbuktu.

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The Danish C-130J Hercules cargo plane and crew are expected to be part of the mission for up to five months, starting from 1 February 2014. The government expected that the Danish contribution to the mission in Mali would cost approximately 37 million kroner.

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