Ready to fire back if attacked, European Union troops beginning deployment in eastern Chad will nevertheless carry out their mission impartially, the commander-in-chief has stressed.
Their job is to protect civilians and aid workers caught up in the violence in neighbouring Darfur. Formally launching the mission in Brussels, General Patrick Nash said the EU force would not get involved in local power struggles.
Ireland, France and Poland will each command a multinational battalion on the ground – some 3,700 troops al total, mostly French. Nash, Irish, will be based in Paris.
Nash said: “We have a very clear mission. If the rebels are not interfering with our mission, then it is no business of ours. You saw the mission I keep referring to. That is where we take action, if they interfere with our mission.”
The general said Eufor would be fully operational in Chad and the Central African Republic by mid-May, with more than a dozen EU nations present. Germany’s role, however, will be minimal: four officers at French headquarters in Mount Valerien.
The mission aims to have created a safe and secure environment in the regions bordering
Darfur within an initial 12-month mandate.
It is likely to be the EU’s most challenging security mission ever attempted. Some 200,000 people have been killed in the Darfur conflict, and it has driven more than two million from their homes.
Nash said the EU states had contributed enough equipment and troops to launch the force, but more will be needed to sustain it.