Defence chiefs have warned against Britain becoming enmeshed in the mission against Islamists in Mali, pointing out that any action could be drawn-out and require significantly greater resources than have so far been deployed.Well, because people could get killed, or something.
The most senior commanders are due to make their apprehension clear at a meeting of the National Security Council with the Prime Minister today. They have the backing of the Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond.
Following three days of French air strikes in Mali, the Islamists launched a counter-offensive yesterday showing they are not a spent force. They attacked government positions in the central town of Diabaly after crossing a river in small groups under cover of darkness. British resources are already stretched, with two RAF transport aircraft having to be diverted from Afghanistan to carry French equipment equipment to Mali. There is a shortage of such aircraft and they are being used to their full capacity. One of the Boeing C-17 Globemasters, hailed by David Cameron yesterday as "our most advanced and capable transport plane", broke down a few minutes later in Paris, en route to Africa.
Some of the military top brass took part in operations in another West African country, Sierra Leone, where prompt action by the then-Brigadier David Richards, now the Chief of the Defence Staff, stopped rebel fighters from taking over the capital, Freetown. But a more protracted campaign was needed, including the rescue of British soldiers kidnapped by one guerrilla group, the West Side Boys.
Defence sources pointed out that the French had already had to revise their original plans for intervention after meeting more resistance than expected. François Hollande's government has sent extra troops and asked for help from the US and Denmark as well as the UK. About 1,800 other soldiers will be sent by Mali's neighbours. Defence sources dismissed reports that British military instructors were being sent immediately to Mali's capital, Bamako, and that unmanned drones were on stand-by.
Mark Simmonds, the Africa minister, last night ruled out a deployment of British troops alongside French forces in Mali. In a statement to the Commons he said Britain's role would be "limited" to logistical support.
"The Prime Minister has made categorically clear that the initial supporting deployment will be for a period of one week," Mr Simmonds said.
"He has also made clear that there will be no combat troops from the UK involved and we have no plans to provide more military assistance."
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
At Independent UK, "Top brass warn No 10: Avoid Mali escalation":