Mali Gets a Mention in State of the Union. But To What End?

Here is a key passage of the President’s State of the Union address last night relevant to the United Nations.

The fact is that danger remains. While we’ve put al-Qaida’s core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved as al-Qaida affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world. In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these networks.

Those countries each have a strong UN presence. Mali, in particular, has a peacekeeeping mission with a potential strength of 12,600 troops. Currently, however, only about half those peacekeeping troops are actually deployed to Mali. That is because there is no money to pay for the deployment of the rest.  And there is no money to pay for these troops because the USA, which is peacekeeping’s largest funder, is not paying for the Mali mission. The USA is not paying its share of this mission, about $300 million (which is  28% of the total), because Congress did not appropriate any funding for the Mali mission.

When president Obama speaks of working with partners to defeat and disrupt al Qaeda affiliates in Mali, he should be referring to UN peacekeeping, which is helping to restore order to areas previous under control of terrorist groups. He should also be referring to these Senegalese troops in Mali who lost their lives in a suicide bomb attack carried out by Al Qaeda last month.

The point is, UN Peacekeeping is on the front line in the fight against terrorism in West Africa. But President Obama’s stated objective of defeating al Qaeda in Mali is undermined when the USA can’t back up its rhetoric with the funds to support this mission.