Pedro Sánchez has started his first official trip on Thursday to visit the Spanish troops deployed abroad. On the occasion of the Christmas holidays, the president has gone to Mali to greet the military stationed in Koulikoro in the framework of the European Union mission for the training of Malian troops and will take the opportunity to meet with the Prime Minister, Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga It is a round trip round trip on the day that Sanchez moves with a government delegation, but not accompanied by the Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles.
Sanchez's trip comes three days after Sánchez dedicated the first poinsettia message to the Spanish troops. He did it from the carrier Juan Carlos I, anchored in the Cadiz base of Rota, next to Robles and valued the incorporation of women into the army 30 years ago. The president thanked the contribution to "peace and international stability" of the nearly 10,000 Spanish soldiers who have participated this year in missions abroad. "You are the best ambassadors," he told the nearly 3,000 Spanish soldiers who are currently abroad.
About 290 of these Spanish soldiers are in the center of Koulikoro, where the EUTM-Mali mission develops the core part of the training and advisory work for the Malian army. The EU deployed that mission, in which Spain is one of the main participants, in 2013 following the request of the interim president, Dioncounda Traoré.
Fight against terrorist jihadism
For the EU it was important to deploy a mission in a place where the political, humanitarian and security crisis as a result of the Tuareg rebellion in 2012 was followed by a military coup in Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world. The task of the armies is, in addition to contributing to the stability of the area, that Mali is a dam for the jihadist terrorists.
In these five years, four mandates of the mission have been produced. The last one began in May of this year and will end in 2020. Spain was in charge of the European detachment in the first ten months of the year in the hands of Brigadier General of the Army, Enrique Millán Martínez, who in mid-November gave him the relay of the command of the mission to the German General Peter Mirow. The EUTM-Mali, in which 25 European countries participate and four that are not (Albania, Georgia, Montenegro and Serbia) has trained more than 12,000 Malian soldiers.
Earlier this year, Congress authorized the expansion of soldiers displaced to Mali, which increased from 140 to 292. The increase in conflict in the African country was one of the reasons for the expansion of the quota, as explained by the then minister, María Dolores de Cospedal, who received criticism for having sent troops before receiving the approval of Parliament. Cospedal explained then that the Spanish military deployed in Mali did not perform combat tasks but training to help the country to recover its institutions, defend its territory from terrorists and provide stability with "an important social function".
Mariano Rajoy also visited the Spanish troops in Mali in May 2015. Sanchez has chosen that mission the year that Marine Antonio Carrero died when his vehicle went off the road. In the case of the former president, his first visit on the occasion of the Christmas holidays was to the soldiers deployed in Afghanistan and in all cases he did so accompanied by the Defense Minister. On this occasion, Moncloa point out that it is "a trip of the President of the Government."
Spain participates in sixteen military operations on four continents. The largest contingents of troops are in Lebanon, with 620 'blue helmets' and in Iraq, with 575 troops, reports EFE. Within the framework of NATO, they participate in the defense of the Baltic States and Turkey, and advise the security forces in Afghanistan. In addition to the Mali mission, Spain participates in joint EU missions in the Central African Republic, Somalia, Senegal and Gabon, as well as in operations that try to prevent illegal trafficking of people off the coast of Libya and piracy in the Indian Ocean.