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Swedish military operation in Mali in question

– This is our biggest military commitment abroad. We lack a good discussion about what we’re doing, what we’re trying to achieve, what we can do better, and maybe not do at all,” Diana Jancy tells DN.

Swedish Patrol of UNIFIL in Mali Off-Road Vehicle 16 (also called Galten) in September 2018

Photography: Bezaf Mahmud, Swedish Armed Forces

More than 350 Swedish soldiers are deployed in Mali (see facts). The Swedish armed forces’ efforts in the interior of Africa have hardly been discussed since the first UN force was deployed there in 2014. And recently this year, Sweden sent an elite unit, a special force, under French command.

From September 2019 to March this year Diana Jansi was Sweden’s ambassador to Mali and lives in the capital, Bamako. Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world and has been affected by two military coups in nine months. First in August 2020 and then on May 25 this year when the army arrested the President and Prime Minister. The outside world has condemned the new junta.

Diana Jancy

Diana Jancy

Photo: private

– After the first coup, there was still some kind of operation against a civilian-led transitional government that would return Mali to a democratic government in early 2022. But we are now in a position with the junta leader as president. So it makes sense to have a debate about Sweden’s commitment: What is our plan B if we don’t see free, inclusive and democratic elections? , says Diana Jancy.

It is unusual for ambassadors to publicly question what policies they have recently been appointed to represent. Diana Jancy’s career at the State Department was marked by conflict zones: Chechnya, Afghanistan, ambassadors to Georgia, Lebanon and Syria. She is now on leave from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and will run for the Riksdag Parliament for the moderates.

Sweden’s elite force has 150 soldiers From the Special Forces participates in the Takuba Division led by France. Its mission is to fight jihadists loyal to the Islamic State or al-Qaeda. Takoba will also advise, assist and accompany the Malian security forces. The force is shrouded in extremely high secrecy.

Sweden should consider restoring strength in Takuba. It is not reasonable to support the Swedish special forces and train the soldiers of the Military Council. We should also think about how our cooperation with France will work, says Diana Jancy.

She points to the fact that on June 10, French President Emmanuel Macron very surprisingly announced that France would end its eight-year military operation in Mali because of the junta. According to Diana Jancy, Macron did not consult his partners in advance, including Sweden.

During the operation in Afghanistan, there were consultation mechanisms within the NATO-led ISAF in cooperation. But this is a French-led effort – have we made sure that we have enough transparency and that there are working mechanisms for cooperation? Diana Jancy asks herself.

When DN asked her how the collaboration worked, Diana Jancy said she didn’t know. But she fears that anti-French sentiment will raise the stakes for Swedes in Mali.

Sending our special forces to foreign countries is not easy. She says it also needs a discussion when the terrain changes.

Swedish UN soldiers from the shooting company in Mali patrol the 16 off-road vehicle (called Galten).

Swedish UN soldiers from the shooting company in Mali patrol the 16 off-road vehicle (called Galten).

Pictured: Oscar Larsson

Sweden also has 220 soldiers from the United Nations In Mali, within the power of MINUSMA. Diana Jancy believes that Minusma has an important role to play. But she notes that Sweden joined in 2014 at the same time that it campaigned for Sweden’s seat on the United Nations Security Council. The Swedish company in operation now is the fourteenth in a row.

We must ask ourselves what the Swedish added value in this effort. Diana Jancy says: Do we have an exit strategy or do we have to be there for another 20 years – what’s the idea?

Earlier this year, the government adopted a strategy for Sweden’s development cooperation with Mali in the years 2021-25, in which 2 billion SEK was allocated for development assistance.

At the moment, Sweden must freeze all aid that has been given the country financially in some form as a recipient until the country restores a democratic government according to the set schedule. We can’t change military assistance and engagement from day to day, but now is a golden opportunity to reflect on our commitment, says Diana Jancy.

Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist (Q) comments on Diana Jancy’s criticism that it is not appropriate to leave Operation Takuba now:

– I have no comment other than that we have a parliamentary decision on the operation in Mali that is still in effect. We also have regular contacts with the French Ministry of Defense, Peter Hultqvist tells DN.

Read more:

Six Malian soldiers killed and UN soldiers injured

Gunnar Johnson: Coup plotters and terrorists create a French-Swedish dilemma in Mali

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