Members of the Army Ranger Wing take part in an exercise. Photo: Óglaigh na hÉireann via Flickr
Analysis: While members of the Irish special forces are more than able for any role they may be assigned, the conflict in Mali is volatile and unstable
The Government has
approved sending around 14 soldiers primarily from the special forces unit, the Army Ranger Wing (ARW), to participate in the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA. While the Defence Forces already contribute to an EU training mission there, this is not a combat role. In Mali, a protracted conflict remains ongoing, aggravated by the intervention of various armed groups and a power vacuum in the north and the centre of the country. With over 200 fatalities to date, this is considered one of the UN’s most dangerous missions.
Ireland’s EU partners, especially France, have prioritised the mission in order to help limit large movements of people and terrorist activities in the region. As UN forces in Mali are considered a party to the conflict, this raises the question whether counter terrorism is something the Defence Forces should engage in under the guise of peacekeeping.