Published on 21 Jan 2013

North Africa: How involved is Britain?

Some MPs left the Commons today wondering whether we are about to get very active in the Sahel region of Africa. David Cameron’s rhetoric – in a Commons statement this afternoon – is still very resonant of the pre-Afghanistan words of Tony Blair.

He didn’t talk about an “existential” struggle today but he did talk about a “generational struggle.” He said “containment” was not an option, the jihadists must be “completely overcome.”

What does it all amount to? Was the tragedy in the desert an epiphany for David Cameron? Or is this inflated rhetoric that doesn’t match¬† what is fundamentally an unchanged level of commitment?

The total EU military training force for the area looks like being 250 or so strong in terms of military personnel from several countries, hence David Cameron’s talk of our UK commitment being¬† in the “tens” not the hundreds.

He said we stood ready to help the French with more C17 planes and unspecified “surveillance” aircraft. He pledged unspecified “intelligence and counter-terrorism assets” in the effort to “dismantle the AQIM network.” And when Dennis Skinner asked him if he could guarantee there would not be a combat deployment of British troops on the ground he ducked the question.

What all this appears to amount to is a degree of refocusing of some assets (some of them of the “hush hush” variety we may never get to hear about) slightly inflated by language intended to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation and to look decisive.

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2 reader comments

  1. Sadie says:

    The Algerian incident this last week and Cameron’s response/rhetoric/bluster should make the Chilcott report vital for the research, strategical planning for the future on this issue. Someone, somehow must be able to force it to the top by this reason. If it does not ever get aired then the civil servants or government officials should be sent the bill for it. It must be recognised in these circles that the days of being able to side ways something into a dusty filing cabinet are going. The taxpayer finances, we want the goods.

    Western governments have wilfully or ignorantly avoided dealing constructively with Africa and neighbours. They opted out to NGOs and hoped that when enough money and divided aims had been thrown at it that societal evolution would have happened in double quick time and of course it has not … but many NGOs have made good careers out of it!

    To just train-up the local forces is not enough. To put in Western style administration, business format is impracticable. Global warming cannot afford for that much airconditioning added to all that USA uses! Every continent has different cultures and religions. These have evolved for climate, – agriculture…

  2. Moonbeach says:

    Here we go again. Cowboy Cameron still wants his own war to show what a world statesman he is! The heir to Blair!

    Go on, Dave, spend yet more of our money and the lives of our armed forces on stupid adventures like Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq.

    We have had 3 days of hand-wringing rhetoric about families ‘losing their loved ones’ as a prelude to Dave (reluctantly) committing more of our hard pressed soldiers to useless conflicts.

    For those who have lost family, it is truly a tragedy and our sympathy goes out to them. But remember, those who chose to work in these very risky places are well rewarded for their risk.

    Not so our soldiers. If Dave and Co feel so strongly about this, let them join up in the TA and see what it’s like! Clearly, anyone without experience or knowledge can run the country while they are away!

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