What is the UK doing in North Africa?


Algeria had, until recent days, scarcely featured on the mental maps of most British politicians. No prime minister has visited the country since it became independent in 1962.

On his visit to Algiers on Wednesday, David Cameron will stress the strategic importance of one of the largest countries in the world in what he has called "the generational struggle" against al-Qaeda in North Africa.

The prime minister and his Algerian counterpart will pay their respects to those who died in the hostage crisis in the desert. They will also discuss deeper security co-operation as British and French force numbers are increased in neighbouring Mali.

David Cameron insists he is not contemplating another conflict like that in Libya, let alone another Afghanistan. His aides are stressing that the troops being sent to the region are to be used for training, logistics and intelligence, and not combat. They talk of a temporary operation.

Some will point to the fact that where once the talk was of "tens of" British troops it is now hundreds and note that the defence secretary said in the Commons on Monday that it was not the government's "intention" for British troops to play a combat role.

This trip is bound to heighten the demands on the prime minister to say not simply what he is not planning in North Africa, but to explain more about what exactly he is.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Again the same OLD story muslims terrorist ! why you making people stupid they dont have basic food,water what the hell they go to do with this. why they did't went to Syria?? cz nothing to steal from there Mali- algeria they got GAS, Oil, gold and diamonds... how many times you will make us fool... country is in triple dip recession, having cut here and there and we starting a new fight..

  • Comment number 81.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    Oh dear here we go again getting stuck in to a land of countless tribal loyalties and pulling a nest of Tuareg wasps on to our heads. We see international conspiracies everywhere and once again a PM being led by the nose by his security advisers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    As a regular visitor to Algeria it's painful to see the lack of infrastructure and the yawing gap between the haves and have nots. For a country so rich in oil and gas it is criminal that these profits are not shared with the general population. I'm guessing that none of this was on the agenda

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    wonder how many young lives will be wasted again here for no apparent reason & no gain, secure your borders end of story, stop letting everybody from anywhere to enter your once decent island

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    2 Hours ago

    what is the uk doing in Africa?

    wasting my hard earned tax money once again is the only answer i can come up with
    How did you manage that?. Algeria is a rich country with over £160 billion in reserves. it only has around 34 millions and over 2 million sq/m. Surely if anyone wish to gain is Mr Cameron and not Algeria

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    A college friend of mine once lived in East Algeria - I remember he surprised me by saying that his area got the same amount of rain as we get in the UK (c.40 inches) - and there was I thinking it was all desert.

    What are we doing there? Don't ask me, I don't even know how the can opener works.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    Good question Nick. The Agerian Civil war in the nineties went almost unreported in the British Press. I took an interest however because I went there on business. Wandering around on my own in Oran and Arzew just after the election was stopped in 1991 was one thing but on later visits my security was a very big issue. Modern Islamic Extremist Terroism was invented in Algeria and later exported.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    what is the uk doing in Africa?

    wasting my hard earned tax money once again is the only answer i can come up with

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    Not a lot has changed with regard France and the Uk in over a hundred years.Germany learnt its lesson in the 20thC ,but the french and ourselves have recently become more Imperialistic.We want a slice of Africa as was accorded in Libya.In doing so' these two western powers are making unforescene trouble for future generations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Al Qaeda is more of a philosophy then anything else common to many oppressed people. People who have been invaded by America and its supporters. Countries whose peoples have been slaughtered by the West so as long as America commits murder, mayhem, drone attacks, bombings there will always be resistance. This will continue until America pushes China&Russia too hard and then nuclear war.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Q. 'What is the UK doing in North Africa?'

    A. Gathering up more enemies for the UK.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    "democracy essential
    to an open society"

    But rose-tinted glasses fatal to both: see bryhers @61

    An open society can be either illusory, or in secure equal partnership

    Security for satire, rank or caste is no security. The fruits of on-going openness can be enjoyed only with citizens truly free to share comment & compete for capital, place or power, without fear of exclusion from equality

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    I would be very happy if our political leaders concentrated their minds and efforts on getting all our military back home, reducing foreign aid and looking after the citizens of this country. Dream on

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Is anyone following the money here?
    The price of natural gas is in the toilet at about $3.35 per million British Thermal Units. This is partly caused by shale gas over production in N. America. But then during the week of the In Amenas facility crisis the spot price of natural gas climes by 103% in NE USA. BP et al stand to make billions. Did some one let those militants in for fun?

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.


    " it should not be read as fact."

    Don't worry, I never read anything in your posts as fact.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.


    As far as your historical factual recall of the Falklands Conflict is concerned, you'd do well to stop digging; you are way way way off. it kinda helps to know what you're talking about before pontificating. Anything else undermines credibility and you have precious little of that as it is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Gibraltar is still British, so Algeria is in the neighbourhood- they still want to pump gas to a cold Europe & they as we have a problem with extreme Islam. Good idea to talk about it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    What is the heir to Blair doing in North Africa?

    Do you really need to ask?? Continuity Brown economics at home, the same interventionist policies abroad.

    What there is now is just a continuation of the last 13 years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    The conservative party should adopt another name because they interfere everywhere and are always changing things.

    They can`t call themselves the capitalist party because they`re lousy at economics,nor are they the national party because they represent sectional interests.

    How about the Complacent and Inertia while Trying to Look busy Party? 4 years before the first HS2 clod is turned.


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