The Pentagon has agreed to offer troop transport support to France as Paris attempts to stop a looming genocide in the Central African Republic.
Thousands of Christians in the CAR have been sheltering at Bangui airport as well as churches and a monastery to escape Muslim militias. The Muslim militias say they are the true rulers of the country and complain of attacks by the counter-militias formed by Christians to protect the people.
Ten percent of the country’s population has already been displaced. France sent in 1,600 troops to prevent wholesale massacre, guarding the 10,000 Christians at the airport and ordering militias to disarm.
“Last evening in Kabul, Secretary Hagel spoke with French Minister of Defense Yves Le Drian about the security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR), where, under the authority of a UN Security Council Resolution, French forces are assisting the African Union-led international support mission to provide humanitarian assistance and establish an environment that supports a political transition to a democratically elected government,” Assistant Defense Press Secretary Carl Woog said in a statement.
“Minister Le Drian requested limited assistance from the United States military to support this international effort. In the near term, France has requested airlift support to enable African forces to deploy promptly to prevent the further spread of sectarian violence in the Central African Republic,” Woog said. “In response to this request, Secretary Hagel has directed U.S. AFRICOM to begin transporting forces from Burundi to the Central African Republic, in coordination with France.”
“The United States is joining the international community in this effort because of our belief that immediate action is required to avert a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe in the Central African Republic, and because of our interest in peace and security in the region. We continue to work to identify additional resources that might be available to help address further requests for assistance to support the international community’s efforts in CAR.”
As when they liberated Timbuktu from al-Qaeda-linked extremists, French troops were cheered upon their arrival in the streets of CAR’s capital.
French warplanes and helicopters have been flying over beleaguered Bangui. The former colony won its independence from the French in 1960.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power said after Thursday’s Security Council vote authorizing French intervention that Washington was “deeply disturbed” by violence in the CAR and thought “urgent action is needed to save lives.” France put forward the resolution authorizing its own military action in the country in support of African Union peacekeepers.