Mali: British Defence Chief Visits Nigeria, Pledges Support

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UK Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) , Gen (Sir) David Richards

By Senator Iroegbu

The United Kingdom (UK) has pledged to support the Nigerian-led ECOWAS war efforts in Northern Mali through the provision of intelligence, trainings and logistic support to the Nigeria troops.

The UK Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) , Gen (Sir) David Richards gave this assurance Saturday when he paid an operational  visit to his Nigerian counterpart, Admiral Ola Sa’ad Ibrahim, in continuation of their sustained support for the global war on terror.

Richards, who disclosed that he received the backing of the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron to explore area of support and collaboration, also emphasised that efforts to restore peace in Nigeria is in its best interest.

He however added that the Malian issue is in the immediate term as the government of Great Britain has plans to collaborate with Nigeria on long-term basis.

He said: Mali presents many challenges, but it is vital that we resolve this issue for peace in the region and specifically in your interest too. We will give you a 150 per cent support we have to be transparent in whatever we do…

“My discussion with my Prime Minister before coming here is that Britain as a whole is very committed to resolving this crisis. It is vital and in our national interest that we have to get it right.”

The defence chief continued: “ After Afghanistan, Mali is the immediate imperative. It is important we resolve this threat of Mali especially for the sake of the African continent and the well being of Nigeria and in doing this, I must say transparency should be a key factor.

“I believe as we draw down from Afghanistan, we will have more resources to support the efforts in the region…they (British forces) will come and train you…play football matches, whatever you wish…and for the long term, not just in Mali, we are planning to come back to the region but before that we have to get Mali right and I am extremely confident, we will achieve our targets.”

Richards described the relationship between Nigeria and Britain as historical and mutually respectful, said he was in the country to meet to discuss and identify areas of strength on the part of the Nigerian and British Armed Forces in order to identify critical areas of support either in the future or immediate particularly regarding the Mali challenge.

He insisted that the relationship between Nigeria and Britain has always been strong despite recent lull in military cooperation as a result of their focus on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Earlier, Ibrahim commended the visiting CDS the recognition of Nigerian wars efforts and expected support of the British government for Nigeria in tackling the terrorism in Mali and West African sub-region.

“Your prompt decision to come and identify with us over the troublesome situation in Mali which is a cause for concern to nations in the sub-region, is appreciated and together, the challenge would be surmounted,” he noted.

The CDS also made it clear that Nigeria commitment is crucial and strategic, warning that failure to take the lead in Malian crises would have been disastrous for both Nigeria in particular and the sub-region in general
He disclosed that the country will play the crucial role of mop-up operations and stabilising the country after the French forces leaves or completes their operations.

Ibrahim also noted that even though the Africa-led intervention force in Mali is having an upper hand over the Islamic terrorists in Mali, he foresees the Nigerian troops could be there for one year as in other to monitor the post crisis Mali because of her leadership responsibility in the sub-region.