Troops trained by the EU mission in Mozambique are already fighting jihadists in the north

The two Spanish lieutenant colonels participating in EUTM Mozambique tell their experience

MADRID, Jan. 29 (.) –

The two companies of the Mozambican Army that have so far trained the EU mission in Mozambique (EUTM Mozambique) are already participating in operations against the jihadists who, under the acronym of Islamic State, have been fighting for four years in the Cabo Delgado region, in the north of the country.

This has been told to Europa Press by the two military observers that Spain has in this mission, Army Lieutenant Colonel Ángel Rodríguez Gallo and Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Pagán.

Spain is one of the ten countries that contribute troops to EUTM Mozambique, the latest military training mission launched by the EU and which responds to an express request by the Government of the African country, which is facing actions by jihadists in Cape Slim.

The objective of the mission, the two Spanish officers explain, is to train the Mozambican forces in military capabilities so that they can “compose a future rapid reaction force capable of giving an agile response to the terrorist threat.”

Jihadist activity began in Cabo Delgado in 2017 and over the years has intensified. Initially, those who perpetrated the attacks were known as Al Shabaab — although they have nothing to do with the Al Qaeda affiliate of the same name that operates in Somalia — but since June 2019 the actions have been claimed by the Islamic State in Central Africa (ISCA).

The situation seriously deteriorated throughout 2020 and early 2021, with jihadists taking control of cities such as Mocimboa da Praia and Palma, but the intervention of Rwandan troops and an African Development Community mission Austral (SADC) has allowed the Mozambican government to recover part of the lost territory, although the threat now seems to be moving to other neighboring provinces, mainly Niassa. Almost 1,600 civilians have been killed since the start of the conflict, according to the tally from the ACLED project.

FORMATION OF ELEVEN COMPANIES

EUTM Mozambique began its activity last November and the initial goal is to train a total of eleven companies of the Mozambican Armed Forces over the next two years – five companies of marines from the Navy in Katembe and six companies of armed forces Army specials in Chimoio–.

In addition to military training, which includes “operational preparation and specialized training in the fight against terrorism”, according to Rodríguez Gallo and Pagán, the Mozambican military will also receive “training and education in relation to the protection of the civilian population and the compliance with International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights regulations”.

According to the two Spanish military observers, “in general there is a high degree of interest on the part of the Mozambican Armed Forces and especially among the soldiers who are being trained” by the European mission.

Currently, a company of Marine Infantry riflemen is being trained in Katembe and another company of commandos from the Army in Chimoio, as well as a group of soldiers from the Air Force in Mavalane, they specify from Maputo, where they are stationed in the EUTM headquarters.

ALMOST 300 MILITARY TRAINED FOR MARCH

So far, “two companies that are fighting terrorism in Cabo Delgado have already been trained” while the two companies that are currently receiving training “are expected to join the fight against terrorism in this region in the coming months.” . The EU forecast is that by March some 290 soldiers have been trained.

In the opinion of Rodríguez Gallo and Pagán, “the turning point” in this mission will occur when the scheduled delivery of non-lethal equipment to the trained units becomes effective. “Once they are trained and equipped, they are expected to have a better response to the threat,” they stress. The arrival of this material is scheduled for the coming months, as confirmed by an EU source to Europa Press.

The mission is still taking its first steps. “At the moment we are developing procedures and gradually incorporating personnel from other nations, with the aim of reaching full operational capacity as soon as possible,” they indicate, acknowledging that the experience of working with personnel from other countries “is always very enriching” .

Precisely, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Policy, Josep Borrell, will arrive in Mozambique this Sunday where, in addition to meeting with its president, Filipe Nyusi, he will be able to see first-hand how the EUTM is getting going.

EXTENSION OF THE MANDATE OF CABO DELGADO

This week, during an appearance before the Security and Defense subcommittee of the European Parliament, the chief of the EU General Staff, Hervé Bléjean, expressly requested that the mission be extended to Cabo Delgado.

The exclusion of the province forces EUTM to depend on information from third parties “which makes it difficult to verify and that it can be considered completely reliable,” said Bléjean, stressing the importance of having “eyes and ears” on the ground, more so now that there seems to be a “certain improvement” in the situation.

From Brussels, however, they remember that as a training mission that is EUTM “it cannot be involved in any military operation”. “The mission will not be deployed in Cabo Delgado and will not accompany the Mozambican Armed Forces in operations since it is not part of its mandate,” says a European source consulted by Europa Press.

However, among the tasks of the mission is to be able to monitor the trained units once they are sent to Cabo Delgado and also evaluate “if they comply with the agreed principles in terms of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law,” he says. the fountain. What is sought with this is that the Mozambican forces do not commit abuses and atrocities against the civilian population in the framework of their operations.

The mission has an initial two-year mandate, at the end of which it will be transferred to the Mozambican authorities “through a train-the-trainer programme”, although there will be a “strategic review” midway through the mandate and there are also regular reviews to evaluate progress, the source specifies, stressing that “any change in command must be decided by the Council” of the EU, that is, by the Twenty-seven.

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