Following last week’s announcement by the Liberal government that it was sending as many as 600 soldiers for United Nations peacekeeping operations, the Defence Department reported that a small contingent of Royal Canadian Mounted Police and military personnel were being sent to Mali.
In his earlier announcement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not mention what specific country or U.N. missions the government was considering, however, the Canadian Press said the troops, RCMP officers and some diplomats were being sent on a “reconnaissance mission” to the troubled West African country.
Officials said the assignment was not a peacekeeping mission, according to the report.
A Defence Department spokesperson said the contingent will meet with counterparts from the Malian government and commanders from the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
“The purpose of this reconnaissance mission is to develop our knowledge and understanding of MINUSMA in order to provide advice to the government,” Daniel Le Bouthillier, spokesperson for the Department of National Defence, told the CP. “The overriding objective is to provide appropriate guidance and advice to the government.”
Sajjan’s trip was meant to scope out potential peacekeeping missions that the armed forces can be involved in.
He said the government was considering long-term missions in Africa for Canadian troops.
Sajjan also did not mention any specific countries or missions.
However, many believe that apart from Mali, the government is considering South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Mali is the eighth-largest country in Africa, with an area of just over 1,240,000 square kilometres.
The conflict was complicated by a military coup that took place in March and later fighting between Tuareg and Islamist rebels.
French and African Union forces drove out the rebels and Islamist forces and in April 2013, the MINUMSA was formed.
There are currently 13,000 troops and 2,000 police from mostly African and South Asian countries. The Force also includes some troops from Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.