The 15-nation U.N. Security Council has unanimously authorized the deployment of an African-led military force to help defeat al Qaeda and other Islamist militants in northern Mali.
The French-drafted resolution also authorized the 27-nation European Union and other U.N. member states to help rebuild the Malian security forces, who are to be assisted by the international African force during an operation in northern Mali that is not expected to begin before September 2013.
The adoption of the resolution was the result of a compromise that ended weeks of disagreements between the United States and France over how best to tackle the problem of Mali, where al Qaeda-linked insurgents seized vast swathes of territory in March.
The resolution authorizes the deployment for an initial period of one year of an African-led intervention force, to be known as AFISMA, to take “all necessary measures, in compliance with applicable international humanitarian law and human rights law.”
The phrase “all necessary measures” is diplomatic code for military force. AFISMA is expected to have up to 3,300 troops and will assist the rebuilt Malian security forces “in recovering the areas in the north of its territory under the control of terrorist, extremist and armed groups.”
The French text leaves open the question of how the international force will be funded. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has recommended against straight U.N. funding for the operation, suggesting that it be financed through voluntary contributions.
The voluntary approach appeals to neither France nor the AU. The resolution calls on Ban to submit a report to the council on funding options. The Security Council does not have to accept Ban’s recommendation, though envoys say it may be difficult for the French to sway the council to support direct U.N. funding.
U.N. officials say Ban dislikes the idea of the United Nations providing direct financial and logistical support for the initial operation to dislodge al Qaeda from northern Mali because it will be a messy fight, with a simple goal of killing as many militants as possible.
“There could be serious human rights questions raised and I’m not sure it’s a good idea for the U.N. to be directly involved in that,” a diplomat told Reuters.