Scant attention has been paid to the partial withdrawal of the Irish Army Ranger Wing from the war-ravaged nation of Mali last month, amid fast and loose accusations of Russian backed atrocities involving the Wagner mercenary group. 

A contingent of 34 men, it was slyly announced that personnel from the elite Ranger Wing would withdraw from the training of counter-terrorist forces in the Malian Army, with the gap potentially filled by rank and file conventional forces over time.

Deployed since 2013 as part of a wider European Training Mission, ostensibly the goal of the venture has been to train state forces as they attempt to put down the rising threat of ethnic separatism and Islamic extremism in the former French colony.

Halfway between being a client state and a banana republic, Mali has been facing a decade-long revolt by northern separatists, heavily fueled by the overspill from the collapse of the Gadaffi regime in 2011.

The role of Irish forces has been to augment the efforts of French forces in their attempts to prop up the coup-prone Malian army.

The fruits of our efforts can be seen in the many military putsches the Malian army has embarked upon since attaining Western training, as well as the rising claims of human rights abuses picked up on by human rights reporters.

To the surprise of many, France announced a sudden end to combat operations in the West African country slightly before the Irish decision in April. citing increasing local unpopularity and human rights abuses by the ruling government, but to some this leaves the door wide open to Russian influence. 

Initially denying plans to follow France out the door, the Irish deployment was originally meant to pick up the slack following the removal of an earlier contingent of Canadian troops from Mali.

Added to this mix of neocolonial meddling, military juntas and a rising crest of Islamism, there has been an increasing Russian footprint through the Wagner group, who arrived in December 2021.

Categorised by some as a Kremlin appendage, the private military company Wagner has been proactive in the country fighting alongside the ruling government against northern insurgents.

Capitalising off increasing anti-French sentiment, Wagner has benefited from the scaling back of Western forces and is alleged to be used by the ruling Malian regime to buttress itself against future Western-backed coups.

Accused by the French of engineering fake atrocities Wagner has seen action before in the Central African Republic, Syria as well as the current war in the Ukraine.

In April, Western human rights agencies rang the alarm on an alleged massacre of 300 civilians in the Malian town of Moura, in which a Russian mercenary was allegedly captured. 

Geopolitically in flux, the Sahel region including Burkina Faso and Niger is presently experiencing multiple secessionist movements, with the Malian government showing signs of favouring Russia over a retreating France as a partner against Islamists.

Essential for French neocolonialism due to its mineral deposits and fears of it becoming an Islamist hotbed, for those baneful of increasing EU militarisation the conflict forms a major part of the bloc’s involvement in the Sahel region.

As rightly intoned by Matt Treacy the volte face on Malian operations begs some serious questions as to who actually is in control of Irish troops, France, the EU or the Irish State.

While some Irish forces will continue in a separate mission training Malian police the question should be asked what purpose did the mission serve?

Not the only aspect of Irish intrigue in Africa we have previously reported on the strange goings on in Ethiopia in which Ireland has hitched its wagon to American interests in undermining the state.

Alongside Mali Irish troops are also deployed on peacekeeping duties in the Congo with rumours abounding that the recent decision paves the way for further deployments across West Africa.

A third rate force at best, the Army Ranger Wing is one of the few chips in the game the Irish state actually has when it comes to throwing itself around militarily with the global big boys.

While barracks are potentially bulldozed at home and institutional rot with the Defence Forces continues, we may see more Óglaigh na hÉireann sent to sunnier climates in the Global South in years to come.

We emerge into a new Cold War and with the need for Western governments to shore up holdings against former client regimes seeking the aid of China and Russia in a multipolar world, Mali included.

Into this intrigue limps Ireland tethered to globalist interests far detached that of the homeland and which are only liable to return my tricolour caskets home.

Down throughout the decades Irish troops while showing gallantry in the Congo or Lebanon have acted as meat in the room in larger, often nefarious geopolitical projects. That tradition is potentially only set to heighten as we pay the price in body bags and lost treasure for our national sycophancy.

Posted by Ciaran Brennan

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