Deployment of Irish troops to Chad approved

The Government yesterday approved the deployment of 400 Irish troops in the African country of Chad, but the Taoiseach told the…

The Government yesterday approved the deployment of 400 Irish troops in the African country of Chad, but the Taoiseach told the Dáil than the decision was subject to the force commander being satisfied that logistical problems would be solved.

However, the Minister for Defence Willie O'Dea said later he was confident that gaps in the transport resources for the mission would be dealt with.

Mr O'Dea will now seek Dáil approval for the EU military operation mandated by the UN. This will complete the triple lock mechanism of the UN, Government and Dáil approval before members of the Defence Forces are deployed overseas. Ireland will play a significant role in the mission to Chad as the second largest contributor and will also provide the overall operation commander, Lieut Gen Pat Nash.

"Our contribution represents the Defence Forces' most ambitious and challenging overseas deployment to date," Mr O'Dea said yesterday after the Cabinet had approved the mission. "Our role is threefold: to help establish a safe and secure environment for refugees, to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid to the refugees and to protect UN and humanitarian personnel."

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He added that the carnage in Darfur, coupled with the multiple conflicts in the border areas between Darfur, Chad and the Central African Republic, had scarred the lives of countless thousands of innocent men, women and children.

"It will be our job to help and protect them and today the Government accepted my recommendation to deploy to the region."

He said on Monday Lieut Gen Nash had briefed EU ministers in Brussels on the mission's current state of preparedness, particularly on the emerging gaps in transport resources, especially the heavy airlift and helicopter assets.

"On foot of that briefing I urged my EU colleagues at the joint meeting of EU defence and foreign ministers to move quickly to address these shortfalls in the force structure. I am confident they will be addressed satisfactorily as gaps of this nature are not unusual during the planning phase of any overseas operation.

"A force generation conference is taking place today in Brussels to specifically address these key issues and I will then discuss the outcome of this meeting with military officials," Mr O'Dea said.

The EU intervention has been sanctioned by the UN because the multiple conflicts in the border areas between Darfur, Chad and the Central African Republic are deemed to constitute a threat to peace and security in the whole region.

Following an agreement between the government of Chad and the peaceful political opposition in August 2007, a peace deal was signed between the government and four rebel groups in October 2007. However, there continues to be problems with ongoing clashes between rebels and government forces.

There are now more than 180,000 internally displaced Chadians and 236,000 Sudanese refugees living in camps in eastern Chad. About 170,000 people have been forced to flee their homes since September 2005. In addition, more than 43,000 refugees from the Central African Republic reside in Chad and 20,000 people are thought to have fled to Cameroon. Malnutrition has reached alarming levels, particularly among children.

Chad is the size of France, Spain and most of Germany combined. The main area of operations in eastern Chad is about the size of France. It is landlocked and there are few if any roads or infrastructure over which to transport personnel or equipment.