LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - The European Union agreed on Tuesday to send civilian advisers to train and advise Mali's police while extending by two years a mission to train the army.
The decisions, taken by EU defense ministers at a meeting in Luxembourg, are part of international efforts to stabilize Mali and extend the state's authority there, 15 months after France launched a military offensive to drive out Islamists who had seized control of northern Mali.
The French-led military offensive has broken the grip of the al Qaeda-linked militants across northern Mali but pockets of fighters still operate from desert and mountain bases.
EU experts will give advice and training to the three internal security forces in Mali, the police, Gendarmerie and National Guard.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement the new mission showed the EU's commitment to supporting reform in Mali and would "help build a lasting solution to Mali's security challenges".
The mission will be based in Mali's capital Bamako and last initially for two years, the statement said. The bloc did not say how many advisers it would send.
Ministers also agreed to extend an EU mission to train Mali's army by two years until May 2016.
The extension of the EU operation, which has around 560 staff, will allow military training of four additional battalions of the Malian armed forces.
Prior to France's intervention, years of corruption and neglect led Mali's army to a string of defeats against militants and to a military coup by disgruntled officers in Bamako in 2012.
(Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Angus MacSwan)