The EU’s military-training mission in Mali graduates its first unit.
Koulikoro, Mali: Capt. Ibrahim Soumassa is calm, though his unit has just sustained heavy casualties. “Last night, we received intelligence that jihadists infiltrated this village,” the Malian army officer explains to me. “But we drove them out and are in the process of securing the area.”
He points to a distant cliff, on which the silhouettes of his troops are seen against an overcast sky. “They are searching for snipers,” he says.
They won’t find any—not real ones at least. Here, in a dusty garrison town on the Niger River, 60 kilometers downstream from Bamako, the jihadists are fake and the casualties are simulated. Capt. Soumassa’s soldiers have been engaged in a training exercise put on by military instructors from the European Union.
“The goal,” Capt. Soumassa tells me, “is to prepare us for urban combat.” Recounting the steps he and his men took to secure the village, he betrays the studiousness of an overachiever. “This is what we will need to do in the North,” he says.
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