The defense of Mali, which is based on volunteerism, comprises (2009) 7,500 men. To see related acronyms about this country, please check ABBREVIATIONFINDER where you can see that MLI stands for Mali. It is organized into eight battalions, three patrol boats and eleven combat aircraft. Semi-military security forces amount to 4,800 men. The material is older and of Soviet origin. Defense costs rose from 1.4% to 1.8% of GDP in 1985-96 and in 2007 stood at 1.7% of GDP.
Mali participates with observers in UN peacekeeping operations in Central African Republic/Chad (MINURCAT), Congo (Kinshasa) (MONUC), Liberia (UNMIL) and Sudan (UNMIS, UNAMID).
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Already in June, however, MLNA came under increasing pressure from the fundamentalist groups Mouvement pour le Tawhîd et du Jihad an Afrique de l’Ouest(MUJAO, Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa) and Ansar Dine. MUJAO itself was the result of a split in AQIM in late 2011. At the end of July, MLNA was pushed out of the larger cities of Azawad, and the fundamentalist groups introduced Sharia into the areas now under their control. The West, with concern, considered the ever-stronger fundamentalist base in northern Maili and therefore allowed the Security Council to pass Resolution 2085 on December 20, 2012. The most important element of it was the creation of the “African-led International Support Mission to Mali” (AFISMA). The resolution was used as a legitimation of a French-led invasion of Mali with air support from Denmark. On January 11, 2013, France sent 4. 000 soldiers – predominantly naval infantry – to Mali and supported by aerial bombardment, they entered the northern part of the country. In many cases, Ansar Dine and MUJAO abandoned the cities without a fight to avoid the French aerial bombardment, and instead fled into the mountains. Therefore, although France had envisaged a rapidly ending war, it soon became clear that control over the cities of northern Mali was conditioned by the presence of French troops and the Air Force. The Tuaregans MLNA tried to balance the invasion force with the fundamentalists by declaring that it supported the French invasion and the fight against the fundamentalists, but at the same time it opposed attempts by the Mali military to gain control over the cities in the area.
As a result of the French invasion, on January 16, 2013, AQIM attacked a gas field in southeastern Algeria near the border with Libya, taking 41 foreigners hostage. The 19th attacked the Algerian military area, killed the hostages and re-entered the area. The action ended up costing 16 of the 41 foreign workers lives.
In February, French President François Hollande, along with Mali’s interim president Dioncounda Traoré, appeared at a public event in the recently re-elected Timbuktu. AQIM and Tuaregians continued to fight in the north, but now waged guerrilla war with occasional suicidal actions. However, AQIM was severely weakened when a joint force from Chad and France managed to kill one of the organization’s key commanders, Abdelhamid Abou Zeid, on February 28. In mid-June, the MLNA Tuaregans entered into a ceasefire agreement with the government.
In July 2013, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) took over patrol of the country’s northern part from the French troops and ECOWAS. In the same month, presidential elections won by Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta were held with 39.2% of the vote, followed by Soumaïla Cissé with 19.4%. In the second round of elections in August, Keïta gained 77.6%, while Cissé gained 22.4%. The turnout was only around 50%. Keïta was inaugurated as president in September. After government forces opened fire on unarmed protesters in September, the MLNA terminated the ceasefire agreement. France continued its military operations in the north, and in February 2014 a joint French-German brigade was sent to Mali to train Mali’s troops. Civil aid work in the country was extremely difficult due to the security situation. In April 2014, 5 members of the International Red Cross (ICRC) were kidnapped by the West African Unity and Jihad Movement (MUJAO). They were rescued at a French military operation in April. The following month, 2 Norwegian Refugee Aid employees were killed when their car was hit by a roadside bomb.