Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Reconnaissance Mission Sent to Study Peacekeeping Operations in Mali

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Reconnaissance Mission Sent to Study Peacekeeping Operations in Mali

Article excerpt

Recon mission to study peacekeeping in Mali

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OTTAWA - The federal government is sending a "reconnaissance mission" to take a closer look at the United Nations peacekeeping operations in Mali.

Officials insist the fact-finding mission, a small group of diplomats, military personnel and RCMP officers, does not mean the government has decided to send Canadian peacekeepers to the west African country.

But one expert says it does suggest that, despite its dangers, Mali is at the top of the list of peacekeeping missions that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could announce as early as mid-September.

The Liberal government said last week that it will make up to 600 troops available for UN peacekeeping operations, including specialized units and equipment such as engineers, medical personnel and military aircraft.

Yet noticeably absent was any indication of which countries or UN missions the government was considering. Trudeau said the government would discuss the matter with the UN and other nations and decide based on where Canada could best contribute.

Defence Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier would not provide specific details about the reconnaissance mission to Mali, citing security concerns.

But he said the delegation will meet counterparts from the Malian government as well as commanders of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, or MINUSMA, as it is known.

"The purpose of this reconnaissance mission is to develop our knowledge and understanding of MINUSMA in order to provide advice to the government," Le Bouthillier said in an email. "The overriding objective is to provide appropriate guidance and advice to the government."

Le Bouthillier said federal departments are working with the UN "to best assess where we can contribute military assets."

Aside from Mali, the government is also believed to be looking at missions in the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan visited at the beginning of August. …

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