France intervened decisively in Mali, but most other European states offered limited or late assistance.
France intervened in Mali in January 2013 to halt Islamist forces advancing on the capital, Bamako. It rapidly went on the offensive and restored government control over almost all major population centres. A select group of EU countries offered military support – mainly airlift – during the initial phase of operations, including Belgium, Britain, Denmark, and Spain. Germany was accused of failing to assist, but it also offered aerial support to the French as the mission continued. The main gap in EU support was in combat forces: proposals to deploy a French-German-Polish EU Battlegroup to Mali were dismissed on the grounds that it might have to go to Syria. African countries sent troops instead.
A number of member states offered financial support to an African mission that operated alongside the French until the summer, although their funding moved slowly. Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, and the UK were also among the lead contributors of personnel to a mission to train the Malian army. The Czech Republic and Poland also made significant contributions. France was, however, frustrated by difficulties in finding protection forces for the trainers. In July, a UN peace operation (MINUSMA) replaced the African force. It initially had to rely on poorly equipped African troops, but Denmark and Sweden offered air assets and intelligence personnel, as did Norway. Most importantly, the Netherlands pledged attack helicopters and commandos to MINUSMA, giving it greater specialised capacities than most UN missions. Ireland considered deploying soldiers to MINUSMA, but switched them to the Golan Heights instead to make up an emergency shortfall of peacekeepers there. Following elections in July and August, the new Malian president pledged to restore the country’s honour and unity. But, after a lull, insurgent attacks on international personnel began to increase and France was not able to withdraw its forces as quickly as it had initially hoped.
In addition to the training mission in Mali, an EU capacity-building operation (EUCAP SAHEL Niger) began training security personnel in neighbouring Niger.