AFL Decorated in Mali

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Flashback: MINUSMA peacekeeping force, which including Liberia'sArmed Forces

The Deputy Force Commander of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Major/General Oumar Bikimo, has rated the platoon-size soldiers of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) as being one of the best upcoming soldiers in the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission.

Similar sentiments were shared by the Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for political affairs, Arnauld Akodjenou, and Brigadier General Sidiki Daniel Traore, Sector West Commander, who branded the Liberian Soldiers as the “Small American Contingent” that was doing so well in the Mission.

For their performance as well as their understanding of the security operations in the system, the soldiers were praised by Gens. Bikimo, and Traore as well as Mr. Akodjenou for what the three men considered as having “done so much”. General Biki challenged them to be prepared for the tasks ahead.

To Liberian Army Chief of Staff (COS), Brigadier/General Daniel Dee Ziankahn, Gen. Bikimo, a Chadian solider, informed the Liberian delegation that soldiers of the AFL assigned with MINUSMA were doing so well, but cautioned them to be aware of lots more to do.

As a result of working in line with their principle of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) since they were assigned there two years ago, the troops are being relocated from the previous post at

Diabaly to Alantona and cohabited by the Togolese Contingent. On June 15 they were relocated to one of the most troubled spots — Timbuktu, Northern Mali. There, they subsequently hosted their second Medal Day Parade on June 19, 2015 in the midst of intermittent violent sandstorms and the scorching sun. Timbutu is one of the hot areas, which has also witnessed series of attacks from insurgents.

Gen. Biki made the observation last week when a seven-man, delegation headed by COS Ziankahn, paid a courtesy call on him at his office in Bamako, Mali. The Liberian delegation had been assigned to that troubled West African country to witness the ceremony marking the second UN Medal Day Parade of the Liberian Contingent serving in the MINUSMA. The ceremony was held on June 19, 2015, in historic Town of Timbuktu.

Those platoon-size soldiers are commanded by AFL Captain Ernest Appleton.

The situation in the north remains unstable and dangerous, but MINUSMA, along with the French troops in collaboration with Malian security forces, are deployed in the country and are conducting counterterrorism operations that target extremist elements. Violent extremists including, but not limited to al-Qaeda in the Lands of Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar al-Dine, the Movement for Oneness and
Juhad (MUJAO), and extremists tied to al-Murabitun, remain active in the region. Some of the terrorists have been dislodged from the major population centers, but do still occasionally operate in the cities including Gao, Kidal, Timbuktu and in remote areas due to the serious threat of terrorist activity and continuing political and civil unrest.

Attacks still remain a treat throughout the country, an official of MINUSMA has confirmed.

Members of the Liberian delegation headed by the COS, Brig/Gen Ziankahn included Lofa County Senator, Stephen J. H. Zargo, Chair on Defense, Intelligence, National Security and Veteran Affairs, Bong County Electoral District #4 Representative, Lester Paye, Deputy Co-chair at the Lower House, and David K. Dahn, Assistant Minister of National Defense for Public Affairs.

The Liberian contingent, since their assignment two years ago, has been flying the Liberian Flag with pride as a member of MINUSMA in keeping with Section 2.3b of the 2008 National Defense Act.

According to the Act, the AFL shall also participate in international peacekeeping enforcement and other missions conducted by the UN, Africa Union, Economic Community of West African States, Mano River Union and or all international institutions of which Liberia is a member.

The primary mission of the AFL is to defend the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Liberia, including land, air and maritime territory, against external aggression, insurgency, terrorism and encroachment.

In addition, the AFL shall respond to natural disasters and engage in other civic work as required or directed.

Today, the new AFL is contributing to international peace efforts, representing Liberia and translating the skills and training they have acquired over the last years into a real combat environment.

It was two years ago, on June 23, 2013, that the Liberian peacekeeping contingent arrived in Mali aboard a United States C-17 military aircraft to participate in the African-Led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) and was received by the Nigerian Battalion at Bamako International Airport.

The move was in fulfillment of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s commitment for Liberia to contribute troops to the peacekeeping operations in Mali in assistance toward restoring that country’s territorial
integrity.

On June 26, 2013, the AFL unit hosted with pride the Liberia National Colors at the Headquarters NIBATT One Base in Mali, and on July 1, the unit participated in the re-hatting ceremony, changing from the African-Led AFISMA to the MINUSMA.

Shortly afterwards, the UN praised the efforts of the AFL’s first operations deployment in more than 50 years. “Since the arrival of AFL in Mali, the troops have been performing excellently well in the performance of their duty,” said Col. Vincent Pillet, chief of staff, Force Headquarters MINUSMA.

The troops were initially deployed alongside a Nigerian battalion northwest of Mali.

Meanwhile they are being deployed alongside Togolese troops. Since the deployment of the AFL in Mali, the unit has been participating in several joint UN training and operations, which included joint training on administration, site security and electioneering. The troops also conducted some civil-military engagements with local leaders.

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