Hey, does anybody remember at the end of 2018 when the Romanian “government” decided to impose a bunch of crazy new taxes without consulting anyone first?
Yah, fun times.
Well, the fallout from that continues, and it’s highly likely that the banks will get an exemption from the “greed tax” lunacy, but today, I wanted to talk about something that almost everybody missed (or was very late to notice).
Even in my own article, I glossed over something quite important because I was waiting for the right time to tell it.
On December 19, 2018, when the “greed tax” was announced, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis went on TV and strongly criticized it.
But even though just the announcement of the new tax crashed the Romanian stock market and cratered the leu (the Romanian currency), that’s actually not what Iohannis was most concerned about.
Before even mentioning the new tax, he had a much more important (to him, at least) announcement to make – he was sending Romanian soldiers to Mali beginning on August 1, 2019.
The supposed reason that Romanian soldiers are going to risk their lives in Mali is because Iohannis volunteered them to participate in a UN peacekeeping mission called MINUSMA. Keep in mind that this is not a NATO mission even though the Canadian defense minister is a bit confused about it:
MINUSMA is quite interesting because it is the deadliest UN peacekeeping mission in history. Nearly 200 UN personnel have been killed since 2011.
Supposedly, Malian government soldiers (the “good guys”) are fighting against Islamic militants in the sandy wastes in the northern part of the country.
Canada’s role (and Romania’s future role) isn’t to participate in the fighting but to evacuate killed and injured UN peacekeepers via helicopter. And to occasionally fly in some supplies.
Frankly, however, the situation in Mali is a quagmire:
First, there is the on-again, off-again civil war that’s been raging since the coup born of NATO’s ill-founded attack on Moammar Gadhafi’s forces in 2011.
Second, there are competing insurgencies and terrorist groups sometimes fighting each other and other times linking up to advance their own short-term self-interests. There are multiple international missions operating in the country with different aims.
Furthermore, the “good guys” aren’t always so good:
The defense minister of the West African country admitted this week that Malian soldiers were implicated in “gross violations” after the bodies of 25 civilians were found in mass graves in central Mali.
Corinne Dufka, a West Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch who travels frequently to Mali, said she has documented more than 60 alleged summary executions by Mali’s security forces since 2017, with the remains of the victims found in at least seven mass graves. This does not include the latest case of the 25 bodies reported this week.
Sounds like just the people that Romanians need to be protecting, eh?
Tea in the Sahara
Even stranger, the Romanian helicopter group will be operating out of the city of Gao, one of the hottest and sandiest locations on planet Earth.
A horrific dust storm, pictures of which showed a scene straight out of a movie, had forced Gen. Vance and the others to remain in Mali’s capital, Bamako, the previous night. It’s a testament to one of the unpredictabilities of this mission – the weather.
Asked his first impression upon landing, a master warrant officer from Quebec who previously served in Afghanistan and Bosnia and who will act here as the camp sergeant major, replied: “It’s very hot. It’s very, very hot.”
Sand, it should be noted, wreaks havoc on delicate machinery like helicopters. And the Sahara Desert location is totally unlike anywhere in Romania (or in Europe), places that the Romanian military might conceivably have to fight one day. So there is zero training benefit for the Romanian military to be operating out of a scorched hellhole like Gao.
Furthermore, Gao has been the scene of plenty of fighting, especially in 2012 when several different rebel groups briefly captured the town.
And things have already gotten worse since the Canadians arrived in 2018:
In a sobering new report, the head of the United Nations says the security situation in Mali has sharply deteriorated over the past three months even as demand for more food aid and other humanitarian assistance has skyrocketed.
The assessment by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres coincides with the presence of Canadian peacekeepers in Mali and suggests the country is in many ways worse off now than when they first arrived in June.
Sounds like just what Romania needs to get involved in!
One KIA Already
Romania’s mission won’t begin until August 1, 2019, but there’s already been one fatality.
So far, I can only find reports in French, but apparently, one Colonel Gheorge Trifu of the Romanian Army was found dead this morning at 3:00 am of “mysterious causes.”
Trifu was staying at the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako (the capital of Mali) in room 620. How and why he was discovered at 3:00 am is not yet known (or reported), but it does speak to something amiss.
Trifu was scheduled to return to Romania on March 10, and it’s highly likely that he was part of an advance contingent ahead of the upcoming August helicopter mission.
You might remember the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako as the scene of a terrorist attack in 2015 that left 22 people dead.
Of course, nobody (but me) is asking why Romania is participating in this incredibly deadly mission to support soldiers that are massacring civilians in a burning hot desert environment that is completely unlike any terrain Romania will ever fight in.
But hey, that’s why I’m here ;)