Britain ups aid for Mali, Africa but wary of mission creep

LONDON Tue Jan 29, 2013 8:17pm GMT

Britain's Defence Secretary Philip Hammond speaks to parliament about Britain deploying military personnel to Mali and West Africa, in this still image taken from video in London January 29, 2013. REUTERS/UK PARLIAMENT via Reuters TV

Britain's Defence Secretary Philip Hammond speaks to parliament about Britain deploying military personnel to Mali and West Africa, in this still image taken from video in London January 29, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/UK PARLIAMENT via Reuters TV

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain increased its offer of aid to France and African governments on Tuesday to help them counter Islamist militants in Africa but limited the scope of its support for fear of being dragged into an Afghanistan-style quagmire.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond told parliament that up to 240 soldiers could take part in missions to train African troops, and that at least 90 more are already taking part in logistical operations to support French troops fighting in Mali.

"The UK has a clear interest in the stability of Mali and ensuring that its territory does not become an ungoverned space available to al Qaeda and its associates," Hammond said.

"We are very clear about the risks of mission creep and we have defined very carefully the support we are willing and able to provide," he added.

British troops will not have a combat role, he stressed.

In a further sign of Britain's concern over developments in northern Africa, Prime Minister David Cameron will travel to Algeria on Wednesday, his office said.

An Islamist militant attack on Algeria's In Amenas natural gas complex earlier this month left at least 38 hostages dead, including up to six Britons.

Cameron, who has spoken of a "generational struggle" against Islamist extremists in the region, will meet Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, a British government source said.

After the gas complex assault, Cameron said Britain needed to "thicken" its contacts with Algeria to help the North African state in its "long running battle against terror".

Britain will withdraw some 9,000 troops from a long and costly mission in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and the public - squeezed by spending cuts to fix a big budget deficit - has little appetite for another expensive military adventure.

In contrast to previous major military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Britain now says it is better to have limited Western military interventions, and that local forces - with Western backing - should take the lead in ensuring security.

Hammond played down the prospect of long-term Western involvement in Mali, saying that France had assured him of a "short intervention" to stabilise the situation on the ground, and that African and Malian troops would then take over.

Up to 40 of the troops Britain has offered are for a European Union training mission in Mali, and up to 200 are for a regional African Union-led training mission involving anglophone West African countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone.

British logistical and equipment aid to Mali has so far included the use of two C-17 transport planes and a Sentinel surveillance plane based at Dakar in neighbouring Senegal.

In response to a French request on Sunday for more help, Britain said it would also offer a ferry to transport French troops and equipment, and allow France and its allies to use U.S. bases in Britain to refuel aircraft.

Britain has also offered to set up a "Combined Joint Logistics Headquarters" in Mali, but France believes such a facility is not needed for now, Cameron's spokesman said.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Osborn and Tim Castle; editing by Steve Addison)

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Comments (4)
Raymond.Vermont wrote:
Erm, so whats the social target here…

Making a predominantly Muslim country into a anti-Islamist one is kinda a oxymoron if ever there was one… (Sharia being the essence of Islam and Muhammadism!)

Gaw’d only knows what French Muslims (the ones not cherry picked by the media that is) take is upon the actions of their Multicultural (when it suits) regime?

Jan 29, 2013 9:21pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
DR9WX wrote:
So, we can just have wars wherever we like and justify it with fatuous statements.

‘help the North African state in its “long running battle against terror”.’

So we use the above wording when we wish to help those in power. Slightly different wording when we wish to remove those in power.

Taliban were our friends at one point. Now they are the enemy. Russia used to be the enemy. I suppose we have to use our military for something, so we definitely need an enemy. ‘Terrorists’ are our enemies. OK, so bombing them helps does it? After so many tonnes of high explosive these terrorists become our friends again?

‘Terrorists’ are dying. People nearby are dying. Children are dying. Our Soldiers are dying. Is this a Government joke that I don’t get?

In my youth we had terrorists in the UK, we called them the IRA. They bombed us but I don’t recall bombing them. It was said Irish people in America helped fund them. I don’t recall imposing economic sanctions on the US.

The Governments are making it up as they go along. Behaving like spoiled children doing whatever they like whilst their middle class parents (media savvy spin doctors) explain their behavior away.

What do our media do? Whatever the spin doctors say, as actual reporting costs money.

What do the public do? Give it a few moments of their time and then when challenged mouth back the key phrases provided by the spin doctors. I have no idea who to blame or feel sorry for. People who can’t critically think. Governments that are completely out of control. Or the Army for carrying out the wishes of a deranged Government.

There, does that make me a terrorist now then? How about this then? The Government answers to Her Majesty. The Military answer to Her Majesty. We are subjects of Her Majesty. So who is ultimately responsible?

For the record, I blame no-one. I am merely displeased with the direction humanity is blindly, thoughtlessly and carelessly heading.

It is about time humanity grew up! Faced its weaknesses and played to its strengths. Or we carry on having wars, blaming other groups for our difficulties. Not critically thinking and not bothering to tackle the root cause of problems. In short, blame everything on terrorists.

Seriously, does this ‘rant’ mark me out as a terrorist or potential terrorist? It shouldn’t. I have merely thought about something and then given my opinion.

If MI6 want my opinion on something then they only have to ask, politely. No need for foreign trips and water boarding. Abuse of power is when the MI6 don’t even think about asking. (Obama, cough, cough.)

Please people, take an interest and keep an eye on the power happy control freaks who you have accepted as our representatives.

Jan 29, 2013 10:49pm GMT  --  Report as abuse
mgb500 wrote:
Please people, take an interest and keep an eye on the power happy control freaks who you have accepted as our representatives.

All that you have written is true – the one problem – the “people” as a whole don’t give a damn about what those cretins in Westminster are doing – just as long as they can sit it front of the television & bray like donkeys at some fatuous ‘reality tv’ tripe!

I am glad I won’t be around in 50 odd years to see this country – it IS going to be a terrible place! I too watched the UK government(s) of the time sit back & allow the US to fund the IRA and did nothing. And now that stupid boy Hague is handing tax monies to the killers of al-qaeda in Syria – if that isn’t insane I don’t know what is!

Jan 30, 2013 6:23am GMT  --  Report as abuse
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