Last Friday, a week on from the Paris atrocities, gunmen from al-Qaeda stormed the Radisson Hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako, killing 20 foreigners.
The worst terror attack in Mali’s history, it showed how jihadists are still a threat to be reckoned with here, despite the presence of 3,000 French troops who ended al-Qaeda’s takeover of northern Mali two years ago.
If those French troops are ever to go home, however – as France would like, given its worries about security threats closer to home – local forces must first be able to cope on their own.
Hence the European Union-led training course at the old Malian military academy at Koulikoro, just outside Bamako, where Gurkhas are now among more than 400 soldiers from 22 different EU countries.
“The Malians are very enthusiastic and keen to learn,” said Major Roylance, 31, as a platoon of Malian soldiers crawled along a dusty track digging for landmines. “They’re particularly proud of being trained by Gurkhas and British soldiers.”
. . .
In the past, Malian forces have often been their own worst enemies when they take casualties, inflicting revenge punishments on nearby villages that drive locals into the insurgents’ arms.
It is the job of barrister David Hammond, an ex-Royal Marine, to convince them otherwise.
“Recently I had a soldier tell me that his wife had been raped and his brother executed by the jihadists,” he said. “He was asking me why he should abide by humanitarian law when the jihadists enjoy impunity. I told him that hard as it was, somebody had to make a stand, and that if international humanitarian law isn’t followed then we are no better than animals.”
There’s more at the link.
So Mali has Gurkha mercenaries – traditionally regarded as one of the ‘martial races‘ – serving and paid by Britain, instructing its armed forces, along with a former Royal Marine who’s now a ‘contractor’, to use the politically correct parlance. I’m willing to bet some of the French instructors are from the Foreign Legion, an almost exclusively mercenary unit with a long tradition of service to France. With such varied backgrounds and experiences, the conversations among the instructors over a beer in the evenings must be rather interesting . . . fly-on-the-wall stuff, in fact.
(Of course, it’s not politically correct these days for the Gurkhas to cut off their enemies’ heads, as one of them found out in Afghanistan a few years ago. Nevertheless, it’s a language the fundamentalist Islamic terrorists in Mali would understand very well. After all, it’s one of ISIL’s favorite methods of murder. Under the circumstances, perhaps the British authorities should consider giving the Gurkhas a free hand once more – and to hell with political correctness!)