Mali crisis: 330 UK military personnel sent to West Africa

Malian troops boarding a French military transport plane French and Malian forces having been driving back Islamist rebels in the north of the country

The UK is to deploy about 330 military personnel to Mali and West Africa to support French forces, No 10 has said.

This includes as many as 40 military advisers who will train soldiers in Mali, and 200 British soldiers to be sent to neighbouring African countries, also to help train the Malian army.

French-led forces are continuing their offensive against Islamist militants who seized northern Mali last year.

International donors have pledged $455.53m (£289m) to tackle militants.

The 330 military personnel comprise 200 soldiers going to West African nations, 40 military advisers to Mali, and 90 support crew for a C-17 transport aircraft and a Sentinel R1 surveillance plane. None will have a combat role.

A conference taking place in Brussels is expected to decide which countries will contribute troops for an EU military training mission for Mali and discuss details of the mission.

Meanwhile, French-led troops are consolidating their position in the historic Malian city of Timbuktu after seizing it from Islamist extremists. They are then expected to focus on the last rebel stronghold, Kidal. They seized Gao, northern Mali's biggest city, on Saturday.

In a separate development, Downing Street said UK Prime Minister David Cameron was to visit neighbouring Algeria on Wednesday.

The trip comes in the wake of a hostage crisis that left four Britons and a UK resident dead and two Britons believed dead. During the siege, one statement purporting to be from the hostage-takers called for an end to the French military intervention against Islamist militants in Mali.

'What we can'

Detailing in the House of Commons the "extended support" the UK will offer France, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said it would:

  • Continue to allow the use of one of two C-17 transport planes, which are already flying French equipment to and from Mali, for three months. The RAF has also provided a Sentinel surveillance aircraft
  • Allow the US - which has been involved in airlifting French soldiers and equipment to Mali - to operate air refuelling flights out of Britain
  • Offer a roll-on, roll-off Merchant Navy ferry to help transport equipment to the French force in Mali. It would dock at a port in a West African state to enable the kit to be moved across land to Mali
  • Provide £5m to assist in the training of West African forces through two UN funds - £3m directed to Afisma (African-led International Support Mission to Mali) and £2m to support political processes in Mali

The UK also offered to set up a combined joint logistics HQ in Mali. However, so far the French have declined this offer.

UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond: "We do not envisage UK personnel fulfilling a force protection role"

UK shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said there were concerns about "mission creep".

"The UK commitment to Mali has grown from lending the French two transport aircraft to the deployment of perhaps hundreds of troops to the region," he said.

"UK trainers may be non-combat but that does not mean they are without risk."

But Mr Hammond stressed: "It is not our intention to deploy combat troops. We are very clear about the risks of mission creep.


So does this move by the UK signal a new era of defence co-operation - the fruit of the defence treaty signed by Mr Cameron and the then French President Nicholas Sarkozy at Lancaster House just a few years ago? Well, yes and no.

British and French forces have already carried out a number of joint military exercises. They've also worked together in battle - most recently joining forces in the overthrow of Libya's Colonel Gaddafi.

But Libya was fought under the Nato umbrella. And Mali is clearly being led by the French. It's not a truly joint operation, or a sign that in the future Britain will always intervene with the French, or vice versa.

It's more an old fashioned "coalition of the willing", based on the shared threat posed by Islamic radicals. Ultimately British and French commanders are not sitting down together in a joint operations room calling the shots.

And when British troops do arrive on the ground in Mali - in relatively small numbers - they'll be working as part of an EU mission.

"We have defined very carefully the support that we are willing to provide to the French and the Malian authorities."

Number 10 is also considering who will provide "force protection" for the military advisers. At present, it is envisaged the force protection will not be provided by British soldiers. It is possible existing French forces in Mali could be used.

Former defence minister Sir Nick Harvey warned the number of personnel involved could rise if the UK had to provide its own force protection.

"If they (the military advisers) are spread out in different locations providing technical advice to different aspects of the Malian forces then those numbers will begin to climb quite rapidly," he said.

Military analyst Col Mike Dewar said the initial UK support was short-term but its latest offer of help constituted a "much more long-term plan".

It could take "years" for the British troops to make a difference to the "ill-trained" Malian army, he said.

The former head of the Army, General Sir Mike Jackson, backed the government's position but warned that nations involved may face a "protracted guerrilla warfare".


More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 821.

    Can't wait the 6 nations ! Allez les Bleus ! Go Mali ! Goodness me, they don't look really 'civilized' there !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 820.

    UKs version of Vietnam perhaps, that's how it all started with US military advisors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 819.

    France did in fact quietly give us intelligence and help during the Faulklans official papers realeased under the 30 year rule showed. They just couldn't say that due to relations with Argentina. Our government have let us down with their imbecile foreign policy. they have trained Islamist terrorist to a high level in Egypt and Libya so we can't leave them to slaughter and overtake Mali.

  • rate this

    Comment number 818.

    Huge mistake. We should NOT do this.
    We will be dragged into a war and our service personnel will die.
    We will be the target of terrorists.

    This is a colossal mistake and based on vanity on the part of the prime minister.

  • rate this

    Comment number 817.

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

    Then they came for the socialists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

    Then they came for me,
    and there was no one left to speak for me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 816.

    Actually, English is germanic. You think only the US and France can act globally? Didn't the Americans call you "Cheese Eating Surrender Monkeys"? Nothing to do with a lack of spine when it came to Saddam is it? For once I think France is doing the right thing and did a good job in Libya too, but don't take it too far. When it really got hot, you were nowhere to be seen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 815.

    @ 783. gc:
    What have a politician's subjective personal views
    to do with politics, or history for that matter? Probably it was seen as a weakness in the Tory party to say nice things about the French.

    @ 807.grumpysleepless: Maggie did actually say something, but back then Look it up, it's educational.

  • rate this

    Comment number 814.

    Since they are cutting the military, how about in order to be a politician you have to be a member of the territorial army and subject of call up for military action. Bet that would stop alot of the military escapades if a politician had to put themselves in peril!

  • rate this

    Comment number 813.

    Lets hope everyone will be as obliging as us when the Argentinians kick off !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 812.

    To "Horse meat Tesco"

    If you are able to understand the situation, then you would understand this is Not pointless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 811.

    As that great wordsmith G.W.Bush once said;
    “There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again.”
    I just hope this doesn't lead to years of 'cat and mouse' fighting and State development by the West in North Africa. We're skint and suffering over immigration as it is!

  • rate this

    Comment number 810.

    re. 772. ovalballs Thank God another person can see past the golden boy marketing of everyone's hero Tony. He's a multimillionaire, so is his precocious barrister wife. He's flown the nest after destroying the economy and started two wars in the M.East. Now he's making more millions giving speeches about it, doing the circuit. And where's his tax on £ earnt abroad? "He's one of us" Really???

  • rate this

    Comment number 809.

    769. Darren

    During the Falklands war The USA provided the latest missiles, submarine detectors and the USS IWO-JIMA military support logistics, contractors, CIA advanced intelligence reports and satellite photography. Secretary of State Alexander Haig said that he was "certain the Prime Minister knew where the President stood. We are not impartial."

  • rate this

    Comment number 808.

    785. Pinotmoir
    743. Bye auntie
    If this does happen, then they will be ringing all the office juniors to sign up, to here and other hys type forums. Spouting out the dictated stance DC has had passed to him by his overlords
    You mean you haven't spotted them already, apparently people are employed & paid to spread dis-information and disrupt forum discussion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 807.

    Maggie has more balls than Cameron even now!She would have told the French "remember when you supplied the Argies with exocet missiles to kill our troops?Get lost!

  • rate this

    Comment number 806.

    I guessed that we would end up gettting involved in another war, someone else's, and that it would not stop at just logistical support.
    Amazing how the government says we have no money but then when it comes to helping other countries, we are never short of money.

    This government lies again and again, just like every other previous goverment. Why do we put up with it ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 805.

    This is at a time we are cutting army jobs. How much longer are we going to stand a government that is not truthful with the electorate?

    If Cameron feels so strong on sending our groups to war zones, he should ensure that they have the proper rewards and support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 804.

    Here we go again, bloody government just loves sticking its nose into other countries business. There's people in this country that want work, need work, need housing etc etc etc, how come there is never any money for this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 803.

    The army is overstrected already & being cut we have not the capacity for another ground war in a far off place. It's an old french colony they are capable I am sure of sorting. Let us stayout of it & leave whats left of the army to defend this little island & what remains of our overseas territories like the Ffalklands

  • rate this

    Comment number 802.

    I cared so much, I cared so much....I don't care any more. It is impossible to make a silk purse from a sow's ear. Get out and close the door...leave them to their tribal beliefs, imans, & ignorant. Maybe there really is a hell on earth and this is it. Hot there too!!


Page 11 of 52


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.