General: Troops well-received in Chad

THE Irish army general heading the EU mission to Chad yesterday said troops were well-received by villagers there so far but the country was still volatile.

General Pat Nash met the Taoiseach in what was seen as a last meeting between the two men before Bertie Ahern steps down as leader of the country.

Irish troops are scheduled to fly to the mid-Africa nation towards the end of this month as part of the 3,700-strong mission under the command of the Limerick general.

Meeting the troops at McKee barracks in Dublin city, Mr Ahern said the mission would not be easy.

It would be an “opportunity to give protection and solace to people who are having a dreadful existence”, he said.

Gen Nash’s “skilful negotiation” had finally seen the mission take flight.

“In other countries, that’s not so simple. Bureaucracy is the essence of delay. And it’s not always easy for a First Commander and his people to get bureaucracies to work. It’s not their job to do that, that’s the job of diplomats and politicians but the First Commander (did) in pushing people forward and enticing people to be co-operative and I think he’s highly respected for that,” he said.

Gen Nash outlined the security of Irish troops on the ground who are part of the 1,765 soldiers already there, while meeting Mr Ahern and the army’s Chief of Staff General Dermot Earley.

Three ships with thousands of tonnes in equipment, supplies and weapons are en route to Africa and will dock on the coast of Cameroon over the next two weeks. These include the MV Zeran which left Dublin last month as well as a French and Belgium vessel. The Irish ship contains 350 containers and along with other countries’ supplies must then be transported some 2,200km across the continent to forces in Chad.

Up to 54 Irish Rangers are already in Chad in a special forces 450-troop unit.

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