Depending on where you live in Mali, the loud roar of a motor scooter engine means very different things.

In the packed capital Bamako, it's the sound of modest economic growth as young men and women commute around the city, weaving through hectic traffic, eschewing helmets with certain swaggering recklessness.

In the centre of Mali, they have become the sound of imminent death as highly-mobile rival militias from Dogon, Bambara and Fulani ethnic groups sweep into villages, burning houses, expelling residents and shooting civilians, without regard for age or sex or borders as they cross over and back to neighbouring countries.

Further north lawlessness and violence has filled the void created after an al-Qaeda and Tuareg separatist coalition of convenience rolled back government forces in 2012.

A counter-offensive by French troops with air support and the deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission have not stopped attacks by the local al-Qaeda affiliate rising. They have quadrupled since 2015 to over 780.

It's into this highly complex regional conflict that Ireland is to deploy its next peacekeeping detachment.

Irish troops are involved in an EU training mission in Mali (Pic: European External Action Service)

As RTÉ reported during the week from Bamako, the Army Ranger Wing - Ireland's special forces - are to be deployed in Mali as part of the Defence Forces UN-mandated overseas commitments.

The Army is already providing 20 people to the EU Training Mission (EUTM), which is aimed at improving the Malian army's capacity to re-establish some stability in a country that has seen intensifying conflict since 2012.

We can now put some flesh on the bones of that announcement: The Ranger Wing will not be helping in the EUTM, instead they will be taking part in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), described by The Washington Post as "The World’s Deadliest Mission".

The Irish special forces will send a 12-man team and they will be operating on long distance patrols in what is effectively a counter-terrorism model mission; but more on that later.

Army Ranger Wing (Pic: Irish Defence Forces)

The Rangers don't get to deploy without Government permission. Government decisions are, in turn, informed by Army advice.

So what is the incentive for sending the Rangers into a conflict zone where the risk is real and, in the current state of play, the rewards are few?

Starting with the Government, there is an ongoing campaign - in competition with economic and aid heavy hitters Norway and Canada - to get a rotating seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC).

With the seat comes a chance for Ireland to test its reputation for punching above its weight, this time on the world stage.

Deploying to MINUSMA will be popular with the permanent members of the UNSC because of the effort to try to roll back al-Qaeda and ISIS in the Sahel (in the form of Jabhat Nasr al-Islam wal Mulimeen - JNIM for short and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara ISGS respectively).

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Ireland’s relationships with its European partners have, due to Brexit, already deepened.

But Germany (who are already with MINUSMA) and France (which operates separately in Mali under the banner operation Barkhane) will particularly appreciate the move in Mali. But more votes are needed than western countries can give.

In Africa, the Sahel G5 (Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger) who support and work alongside MINUSMA against cross-border militant activity will welcome the move for a start.

Mali would prefer arms than more peacekeepers and has told Ireland as much. "We are fighting terrorists in the north and now in the centre. Mobility is difficult, we lack helicopters to increase our military presence," one military source told Human Rights Watch in a major report released last month.

They would also like armoured vehicles but that's not in Ireland's gift. Support for the Security Council bid was raised by the Taoiseach with Mali's president this week when he visited him in Bamako.

Sending special forces in to help a country whose military Ireland is already helping to train can't have hurt.

The Army - both inside and outside the Ranger Wing - see the need to put the unit's intensive training into use.

Working in new climates and environments alongside other armies is the kind of on-the-job training that can't be replicated in the Glen of Imaal or on any exercise.

The potential downsides fall into two categories: human and reputational. Leave aside the domestic political downside for the moment: In the short term it's difficult to see.

A mandated UN peacekeeping mission is the kind of mission purist defenders of Irish neutrality point to as the only acceptable model when criticising EU missions like EUTM (with necessary UN mandate to fulfil the triple lock) as evidence of the inexorable creep towards a superstate or neo-Imperialist final destination.

The human cost is the potential for casualties in the new deployment. Northern Mali is a war zone where MINUSMA is seen as a legitimate target.

A statement around this time last year said the following: "The casualties in 2017 are the highest number ever recorded by the Committee.

"In the past five years, at least 310 United Nations personnel have died in deliberate attacks.

"For the fourth year in a row, the peacekeeping mission in Mali suffered the greatest loss of life with 21 peacekeepers and seven civilians killed."

Homemade bombs or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have taken a terrible toll on the blue helmets.

MINUSMA patrols come up against militias who have experience in Libya and who are well armed and well resourced.

The potential reputational price of the MINUSMA participation (if any is ever paid) is an unknown quantity.

The Malian armed forces who the mission supports have a lot of ground to make up before it gains the necessary legitimacy for the mission to wind up.

In the centre of Mali it is accused by some Fulani people (from whom Islamist militants have recruits through convincing, employing or coercing them) of supplying arms or failing to respond to attacks by Dogon and Bambara militias.

For its part the government denies the claims of arms supplies and points to under-strength capacity and equipment in answers of criticisms of its ability to act in defence of civilians.

Usual traffic on a street of Bamako, Mali

The Malian government has acknowledged that civilians have been killed by the army in counter terror operations.

A lot rides on the EUTM human rights and military training to bring the army to the point of being trusted and accepted by all.

There are reputational implications too within Mali - again by association - of being deployed in the same theatre as the French army, which is carrying out attacks on Islamist militants.

Mali won independence from France in 1960 and JNIM and other elements have bundled all non-Malian troops, whether French, UN or G5 Sahel together under one simple umbrella: the enemy.

The most recent UN report on Mali in August 2018 said there had been an increase in "complex attacks" (ambushes) on international forces.

Mali's overlapping ideological religious and tribal conflicts won't be solved by the addition of 12 Irish soldiers.

That won't stop the risks and expectations of the modest deployment being high.