For its third consecutive mandate, the European Training Mission in Mali (EUTM) saw Belgium occupy its command positions until the end of January 2018. The number of Belgian soldiers involved in the mission has reduced from 180 to about 20.
On 22 December 2012, the President of Mali submitted a formal request for assistance to stabilize his country. The European Union responded positively to this request and established the European Training Mission in Mali in February 2013. The EUTM has been extended in May 2014, and once more in March 2016, this time under the command of Belgium.
This crisis follows the coup in Mali on 22 March 2012. The resulting instability has allowed the Tuareg and various radical Islamist groups to seize large areas in the north of the country. Despite the success of the Serval operation conducted by France in January 2013 and the restoration of Malian state authority at the end of January 2013, terrorist groups remained very active in the country.
This third mandate under the Belgian flag was no longer limited to giving instructions to entire military battalions. The EUTM has indeed focused on a long-term vision, supporting the training of Malian instructors and staff so that they can train their own military personnel. The mandate area has also been extended to include the cities of Gao and Timbuktu.
In 2018, Defence will focus more on the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Forty Belgian members of the cavalry (the Chasseurs à Cheval battalion) will participate and air support will be provided (2 helicopters and some 50 crew members).
For the European Union, Mali is an important partner in Africa because generally stable and peaceful, at least until March 2012 when the coup was orchestrated by an army captain. Because of its position and geographical importance, Mali's stability is a key factor in the security of the Sahel region, and more broadly, of the African continent.