2018/11/10 – Major Ivo Peets has been serving with the EU training mission in Mali (EUTM) for six weeks. Peets, who has served with the Kalev Infantry Battalion for several years, concentrated on developing a more effective conscripts’ training cycle to make the best of time spent in compulsory military service and produce capable reservists in Estonia.
The new basic soldier’s course that makes it possible to get conscripts ready for combat in less time was among the most noteworthy achievements of Peets’ work in Estonia.
Now, the Estonian officer accepted at least an equal challenge and flew 6,000 kilometers to Mali to fill a post that has belonged to Estonia for the past two years. His task with the EUTM is to help develop the Malian army so it could restore stability and combat terrorism in the restless country.
In an interview given to Postimees in the capital Bamako, Peets talked about what motivates Malian soldiers, how Estonians are doing training Africans and why it is necessary to find Malian soldiers’ aggression.
How does training work in Mali and who do you train exactly?
There is no compulsory military service. Mali has a paid army. The focus of EUTM has changed since the training mission began in 2013. Back then, the goal was to provide basic combat training, train squad and platoon commanders.
We fulfilled that role because Mali no longer had a systematic structure for training its units. EUTM ensured basic training.
Things have changed now. We are no longer fishing for them but are teaching them to fish. We are teaching courses that are several steps ahead. Our aim is to train the trainer; we teach them something and then we teach them how to pass that knowledge on. That is our main focus.
Specialist skills are another thing. These include how to deal with IEDs and international military law; [teaching the soldiers] to communicate with the civilian population so as not to alienate the army from the people.
That is one side of EUTM – training. The other is advice, instruction of top and medium-ranking officers in terms of how to tactically plan operations all the way to the strategic level, so the armed forces of Mali would sport a higher quality.
Advising the G5 Sahel military framework (made up of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania and Niger – ed.) to facilitate coordinated action in the region has become an important part of EUTM.
Malian soldiers have committed crimes against humanity. I understand that is part of your focus.
It is a sensitive subject for the European Union in a way. Soldiers might commit offenses either knowingly or unknowingly if they do not know the consequences of their actions. Such offenses are the most effective tool for terrorists. Insurgents can use their weaker position to show how the government is only doing bad things.