Prague might double its military contingent within the French-led EU training mission in Mali so that more French troops can leave to fight Islamic State in Syria, daily Pravo writes yesterday, citing Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO).
Czech parliament previously approved the sending of up to 50 troops to the Malian mission. The Czech contingent there has consisted of 38 troops so far.
“I and Chief-of-Staff Josef Becvar have agreed that the number of troops may be raised by a few dozen. However, we have to wait for whether France asks us to do it,” Stropnicky told Pravo on Wednesday.
The task of the Czech troops in Bamako is to guard the military base with the headquarters of the training mission. In addition, they assist in training Malian soldiers to make them capable of facing the pressure of Islamist radicals who mainly operate in the north of Mali.
An increase in the Czech contingent in Mali needs consent from the cabinet and parliament.
Members of the lower house´s defence committee support the plan but they doubt that it can help France significantly.
“If France continued its air strikes [on IS in Syria] only, the sparing of several dozens of soldiers will be of no big help to it,” MP Marek Zenisek (opposition TOP 09) is quoted as saying.
Nevertheless, he said he would support the extension of the Czech contingent in a parliament vote.
So would MP Antonin Seda (government Social Democrats, CSSD), who, however, said he would first ask Stropnicky and the military command whether they have money to finance the step.
He said he would ask “whether the Czech units are capable of securing the planned stronger contingent´s rotations in Mali, also in view of possible future tasks the military may face as a consequence of illegal migration.”
MP Jana Cernochova (opposition Civic Democrats, ODS), too, supported the plan as “a means to free the hands of France, which wants to be more active in Syria.”
A total of about 400 Czech soldiers operate in several missions worldwide. Most of them, 300, are in Afghanistan, where they operate at the Bagram base and in Kabul. Other Czech soldiers are in Sinai, Kosovo and elsewhere, Pravo writes.