ZIMBABWE’S elite forces from the Special Air Services, Commando and Parachute regiments will be the first to be deployed to train the Mozambican army which is fighting to repel violent extremists in the country’s northern Cabo Delgado province, with the help of Rwandese and Sadc forces, The NewsHawks has established.
Last week, Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri told a Press briefing that Zimbabwe would deploy 304 non-combatant soldiers to Mozambique’s conflict-ridden region. The conflict, which broke out nearly five years ago, has resulted in the death of hundreds of civilians while hundreds of thousands have been displaced.
Military sources who spoke to The NewsHawks said the size of the contingent to be deployed reflects the role the soldiers are assigned fulfil in the conflict.
“In the military, 300 represents three companies and each company (coy) ordinarily should be under the command of a major who serves as the field officer. If Zimbabwe was keen on engaging in a serious assault on the insurgents, it would at the very least deploy a battalion, which is made up of at least 1 000 men,” a source said.
“Due to their specialities, elite forces as compared to infantry troops are deployed in small numbers. Once we see government deploying more, that will be a sure sign that the conflict has intensified. But as it stands, recce (reconnaissance) elements, who were there earlier on, will be deployed again but this time to train Mozambican soldiers.”
Rwanda was the first African country to deploy its army on a bilateral basis to help Mozambique repel the Islamist insurgents in Cabo Delgado, while Botswana and South Africa recently sent contingents of soldiers under the auspices of Sadc to help reclaim lost ground and restore peace. Following these deployments, reports show that the insurgents have over the past few weeks been losing ground.
Addressing a Press conference in Harare, Muchinguri-Kashiri said the government had approved the deployment of a training team of 303 instructors to train one infantry battalion-sized unit at a time.
She said the government had also approved the deployment of a specialist officer to the co-ordination mechanism of the Sadc standby force headquarters in Maputo.
“Taking cognisance that there are two major elements to the deployment, namely combat and training, the status of force agreement (SFA) signed on July 8, 2021 is confined to combat activities only,” Muchinguri-Kashiri said.
A leaked detailed document of the Sadc military plan shows that regional leaders, following the technical assessment mission, wanted the immediate deployment of security forces covering maritime, air and ground strategic areas.
The technical assessment team came up with a detailed deployment plan and recommended that Sadc dispatch a force of 2 916 soldiers to Cabo Delgado to “combat and neutralise” the insurgents and recapture territory they have taken, including their capital, Mocímboa da Praia.
“The SFA pertaining to training is yet to be signed. It must, therefore, be noted that the countries that are currently deploying are doing so on the strength of the SFA signed on July 8, 2021.”
She said the army would be deployed after the signing of the SFA.
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