By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2013 – The Defense Department sent another Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport jet from Burundi to the Central African Republic today in support of the African Union-led International Support Mission in that beleaguered nation, Army Col. Steve Warren, a Defense Department spokesman, told reporters here.
Since Dec. 12, when the airlift mission began, eight C-17 flights have traveled from Burundi to the Central African Republic, carrying 432 passengers, 25 pallets of equipment and 13 Burundian military vehicles, Warren said.
“There’s another flight scheduled today, and two more scheduled for tomorrow,” he added. “We estimate another 165 personnel will move on those three flights.”
Two of the C-17s and a small command and support team were on the ground in Uganda by Dec. 11, preparing to conduct airlift operations in support the ongoing peacekeeping operations, Warren said last week.
Also last week, a Pentagon official said a second small team of Air Force logisticians was on the ground in Burundi to prepare equipment for loading, and a third team was in the Central African Republic to help with security operations at the airfield.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian requested limited assistance from the U.S. military to support this international effort, Assistant Pentagon Press Secretary Carl Woog said in a Dec. 9 statement.
“In the near term,” he said, “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.”
In an audio message released Dec. 9, President Barack Obama called on the transitional government to arrest those who are committing crimes.
“Individuals who are engaging in violence must be held accountable — in accordance with the law. Meanwhile, as forces from other African countries and France work to restore security, the United States will support their efforts to protect civilians,” Obama said.
On Dec. 10, the president authorized the State Department to use up to $60 million in defense services and equipment for countries that contribute forces to the international support mission.
The assistance could include logistical support such as strategic airlift and aerial refueling, as well as training for French and African forces deploying to the Central African Republic.
The United Nations has estimated that more than 600 people have been killed in sectarian fighting in the Central African Republic. In addition to troops from African countries, France has dispatched several hundred troops to its former colony to help quell the unrest.
(Claudette Roulo of American Forces Press Service contributed to this story. Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinAFPS)
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