The European Union has approved a mission to eastern Chad to protect civilians and aid workers caught up in the violence in neighbouring Darfur, where rebels took up arms against Sudan’s government in 2003.
The force of some 3,500 is set to deploy from February to June, under the command of Irish Lieutenant-General Patrick Nash.
France is expected to provide more than half the troops: 2,100. Poland and Ireland have each pledged 400. In all, 14 EU countries are expected to participate, with an initial mandate of 12 months.
The foreign ministers who approved the Eufor Chad/Central African Republic force said it would act in a “neutral, impartial and independent manner”. The operation was due to have started last October but the EU members did not come up with key equipment needed, notably helicopters.
Ministers also pledged that the operation would coordinate fully with the larger planned joint United Nations-African Union mission in Darfur itself. Some 200,000 people have been killed in the Darfur conflict, and it has driven more than two million from their homes. This is expected to be the hardest of all the missions the EU has taken on.