The crisis in Mali has landed upon front pages again this week, and what has become a recurring headline is cause for concern: 'Terror groups target United Nations peacekeepers.' Five UN troops were killed in an ambush in central Mali on Sunday. The attack came only days after a UN convoy hit an improvised explosive device and later came under fire from armed assailants. The latter attack also killed five peacekeepers and injured three others from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The surge in jihadist violence in the West African nation has made Mali the UN's most deadly operation globally, with more than a dozen attacks targeting peacekeepers this year alone. Sixty-four peacekeeping troops have died in action since the mission arrived in 2013. Despite the constant threat, there are more than 11,900 UN Peacekeepers currently deployed to help stabilize the country and assist in the peace process between the Malian government and rebel groups following a 2012 coup. Unfortunately, militant extremist groups continue to act as spoilers to the peace process, launching attacks against the UN and against civilian targets -- like hotels and businesses. What's more, peacekeepers in Mali are not alone in these dire challenges. More and more UN peacekeeping missions are taking place in dangerous and remote environments around the globe. In fact, two-thirds of all peacekeepers are currently deployed to areas experiencing active conflict, and they are increasingly viewed as targets for attack. The string of attacks against peacekeepers will almost certainly continue as the terror threat in the region grows. In response, the UN must not withdraw; rather, we must maintain strong support for the UN presence and notably peacekeepers, who are putting their lives on the line to support a future of peace amid a growing terrorist hotbed. Peacekeepers will be best positioned to protect civilians--including young children who are threatened by these insurgents-- if their mission is fully resourced.
This Sunday, the day before Memorial Day here in the U.S., the world commemorated International Day of UN Peacekeepers. This moment honored the memory of UN Peacekeepers who have lost their lives in the pursuit of peace and recognized those who continue to serve valiantly, despite the known dangers.
In almost 70 years of peacekeeping, more than 3,400 peacekeepers have died while serving under the UN flag.