MS Risk Blog

Canada Stalls on Mission To Mali

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This month, Canada indicate that it would again put off a decision on contributing troops to a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Mali – a move that has upset allies who have stated that the new delay could undermine Canada’s effort to obtain a seat on the Security Council.

Last year, the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that it would consider deploying troops to Mali. However it has taken months longer than predicted to make up tis mind amidst increasing fears that soldiers would die. Officials say that sending Canadian troops to Mali would inevitably result in casualities, which could prove politically unpopular. Canada lost 158 troops in a 10-year stint in Afghanistan – more per capita than any other nation. Allies were now expecting an announcement before Canada hosts a peacekeeping conference in November however in a Toronto Star interview published on Wednesday 13 September, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan disclosed that the decision would not be made by then. Diplomatic sources from three countries have now disclosed that the delay could harm Canada’s efforts to expand its influence in the United Nations. According to one of the sources, “if you want a seat on the Security Council, not being active at the UN isn’t helpful.” Meanwhile a second diplomatic source stated that “being a serious player at the United Nations means not always choosing the safe option.”

Prime Minister Trudeau came to power in 2015, declaring that “Canada is back,” and stressing the need for a more progressive foreign policy. As part of the effort to rebuild ties at the UN, Canada indicated that it would commit up to 600 soldiers for possible UN deployment, and pressed for one of the Security Council’s 10 non-permanent seats. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Trudeau stated that several hundred Canadian troops were taking part in international operations in Latvia, Iraq and Ukraine, telling reporters that “we are serious about re-engaging with United Nations peace operations but…we need to make sure we’re doing it right.” The Canadian leader is due to go to the UN next week and address the General Assembly

The United Nations has deployed some 10,000 peacekeepers to Mali to help deal with Islamist militants. In recent months, security in Mali, particularly in the northern and central regions, has significantly deteriorated, with violence spilling over into neighbouring states, affecting particularly northern Burkina Faso, where a number of incidents have been reported in recent months.