Mali conflict: UK military personnel to be sent to West Africa
Britain is offering to send up to 200 military personnel to help train a West African intervention force to support French forces in Mali, the defence secretary has confirmed to MPs.
Philip Hammond said this would be in addition to up 40 military advisers who will be sent to train soldiers in Mali.
His statement in the Commons was in response to an urgent question by Conservative MP John Baron, on 29 January 2013.
Islamist militants took the north of the country last year, but have been losing ground since French forces launched an operation earlier this month.
Mr Baron said it was in "everyone's interest" not to allow "legitimate governments to fail when faced with extremists", but he feared the UK could be drawn into "ever deepening conflicts".
He said greater clarity was needed on the exact role of British troops - arguing that there were "grey areas" between combat roles and support roles - and on the exit strategy.'Step change'
Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy also warned against "mission creep", saying the British public are "wary and weary" of conflict.
The defence secretary accused him of "fence setting" claiming he had not made it clear whether Labour supported the government's action.
He told MPs: "It is not our intention to deploy combat troops. We are very clear about the risks of mission creep and we have defined very carefully the support that we are willing to provide to the French and the Malian authorities."
Mr Murphy also sought guarantees that no UK personnel would be redeployed to the Mali mission from Afghanistan.
Mr Hammond said the government was looking "all the time" at what it could do without impacting on operations in Afghanistan.
Liberal Democrat former leader Sir Menzies Campbell asked about the "long-term implications" of the "step change" in Britain's commitments to the Mali mission.
Mr Hammond said what the government was proposing was a "very well-leveraged" use of British forces, resources and capability at "minimal cost and risk to ourselves".
The UK is already sending a C17 transport plane for three months and an RAF Sentinel surveillance aircraft.