Cablegate: Closing Ceremony of Jcet Training of Malian Army


DE RUEHBP #0815/01 3511536
O 171536Z DEC 09

S E C R E T BAMAKO 000815


E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/16/2019


Classified By: Ambassador Gillian A. Milovanovic, for reasons 1.4 (b) (

1. (S) On December 11 the DCM and DATT participated in the
graduation ceremony of a Joint Combined Exchange Training
(JCET) exercise of the Malian Army Echelon Tactique Interarme
(ETIA) 4, in Gao. ETIA 4 is based in Timbuktu. The 10th
Army Special Forces Group out of Fort Carson, Colorado, and
led by Captain XXXXXXXXXXXX and Master Sergeant
XXXXXXXXXXXX, conducted the JCET. Overall,
XXXXXXXXXXXX said the approximately 160
men learned a lot over the five week
training exercise. The exercise was shorter than planned in
the wake of a hostage taking incident in Mali which led to a
change in THREATCON and the US military-ordered temporary
suspension of training while the JCET team was temporarily
restricted to its quarters.

2. (S) The Governor of Gao region, Colonel XXXXXXXXXXXX,
presided over the JCET graduation and thanked the U.S.
Government for its commitment to helping Mali defend itself.
Noting that he had served as military commander of the
Timbuktu region during the time of the Tuareg rebellion, he
exhorted ETIA 4 to apply what it had learned in the course of
the training. A product of numerous IMET training
opportunities in the United States and recently returned from
a five year tour in Addis Ababa as Mali,s military attach,
XXXXXXXXXXXX displayed an unfortunate lack of respect for the
common soldiers who are being asked to lead the fight against
AQIM. He distractedly waved on the many troops who stood at
attention before him after receiving their graduation
certificates, leaving the DATT to return their salutes.

3. (S) When the DCM asked him about the security
situation in Gao, XXXXXXXXXXXX said
he viewed the kidnapping of French citizen
Pierre Cammatte as a worrisome escalation, as
AQIM had until now refrained from taking hostages on Malian
soil. Nevertheless, he minimized the risk, saying that
although many had left, there were still quite a few French
and other European nationals working in Gao Region. He did
not reiterate his September 23 request to the Ambassador for
more development assistance.

4. (S) After the ceremony XXXXXXXXXXXX called over one,
rather unimpressive soldier, an older, rail thin man with a
scraggly beard and bloodshot eyes who had been lounging
against a motorbike in a dirty T-shirt inside of a warehouse.
He explained that in spite of appearances, this was one of
the ETIA's best men, noting that he had been one of the few
survivors of a July 4 ambush of a Malian Army patrol by Al
Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (see IIR 6 958 0087 09). When
asked how the training had gone, the soldier said if he had
known at the time of the ambush what he had learned over the
course of the JCET, it never would have happened. He cited
in particular learning why and how to establish a mobile
patrol post, digging and manning foxholes which afford 360
degree, round-the-clock protection from potential assailants.
The soldier said the Salafists would never confront the Army
head-on, and if the Army engaged, they would flee, but if
there is not proper security, they will creep back and murder
you in the most cruel, unimaginable ways.
XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that the ETIA had done
simulation exercises to defend, for
example, the recovery of a broken down vehicle.

5. (S) The commander of ETIA 4, a major, also spoke
highly of the training. He noted that he had already reached
the end of his six month rotation, but had been extended so
as to be able to lead participation in the JCET. He said he
does not want to leave his men, and spoke about the logic of
having a longer tour so as to develop skills over time and to
build on training rather than starting from the beginning
each time there is an opportunity for a JCET or other
training. Nevertheless, it was evident from the preponderant
number of black African faces in the ranks that most of ETIA
4 was not from the North, and service in the North will
clearly be a significant hardship on them and their families,
most of whom live in the South.

6. (S) XXXXXXXXXXXX said that each soldier had expended some
1,000 rounds of ammunition during the course of the training.
Although a U.S. Special Forces soldier might expend that

much in a day of training, he noted that a number of the
Malian soldiers said it was probably more than they had used
in their entire careers. He said the JCET had revealed, and
made an effort to correct, some simple lacunae. For example,
when the survivors of the July 4 ambush were asked why they
had left behind so many vehicles to be captured by AQIM, they
said the drivers had been killed and no one else in the unit
knew how to drive. When asked why they had not used a heavy
machine gun, they answered that the gunner who knew how to
operate the weapon had also been killed, and he was the only
one who knew what to do. Although it detracted from their
initial training objective, the U.S. trainers taught everyone
in the ETIA to drive and to fire and maintain all of their
weapons systems.

7. (S) When asked from a non-scientific perspective to
rate ETIA 4 with other comparable army units,
XXXXXXXXXXXX said that, based on
conversations with the Officer in Charge of
the September 2009 training of ETIA 1 (Bamako 538), he
believes that ETIA 4's capabilities are better overall. On a
scale of 1 to 10 compared to other forces in Africa and the
Middle East, including Iraqi Army regulars, ETIA 4 ranks
about 6 out of 10. This compares to Algerian Army regulars
that he ranked about 7 or 8. XXXXXXXXXXXX said that, with
maintenance of the skills they had learned during the JCET
and additional, follow-up training, ETIA 4 could easily

8. (S) The JCET moved on December 7-8 to Amakouladji, a
town approximately 35 kilometers north of Gao on the road to
Bourem. There, they conducted a live fire exercise with
rocket-propelled grenades and mortars at a firing range
XXXXXXXXXXXX said was safe and well-suited to simulate geographic
conditions in the North. In the town itself, they
distributed supplies to some 240 grateful primary school
students and vaccinated 250 farm animals.
XXXXXXXXXXXX and several of his men said they
had seen no/no evidence of AQIM
surveillance or activity during the course of the five week

9. (S) Although the JCET was an overall success, it was
not without problems. The 14 Landcruisers designated for
ETIA 4, that were part of the 37 the Ambassador handed over
to the Minister of Defense on October 20, did not show up in
Gao until the last week of the training. While the vehicles,
five equipped with Harris HF radios, are with the unit now,
and will move with the ETIA 4 back to Timbuktu, the hand held
radios that should also have been part of the ETIA 4 vehicle
allocation had not yet arrived. Only about two thirds of
the 160-strong unit were wearing the boots and desert
fatigues provided by the United States, but additional boots
and other equipment arrived on the CASA 212 flight from
Bamako the day of the ceremony. XXXXXXXXXXXX also said that the
Gao base commander had initially tried to keep him out of a
warehouse which stored replacement gun barrels and other
parts. He was told that the materiel was being held in
reserve, but he overcame the base commander's objections and
succeeded in procuring what was needed to replace broken or
missing equipment held by the ETIA.
XXXXXXXXXXXX was asked to make that part of his
report, as the Ambassador had raised
the problem with President Amadou Toumani Toure in September
(Bamako 619).


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