Amid concerns on the Tory benches that Britain is being drawn into a conflict without an exit strategy, the government said that 200 UK troops would train an African regional force outside Mali, with up to 40 more on an EU training mission inside the country. A further 70 RAF personnel will oversee the use of a Sentinel surveillance, to be based in Senegal with 70 supporting crew and technical staff, and 20 will staff a C-17 transport plane for a further three months.But, while leaving the detailed discussion to the Boss, I cannot help sharing the Tory benches' concern (assuming benches do have concerns). Exactly what are we going to achieve (not that I would not like to see Timbuctoo or what is left of it saved from the various militias) and to whom are we going to hand power? Or, alternatively, whom are we supporting and will they, in turn, be on our side? Also, what is our eventual exit strategy?
Britain has offered a roll-on, roll-off ferry to help transport French armour to Mali by sea, landing on the African coast. Britain is also offering air-to-air refuelling capacity to operate outside the UK, but based in Britain. It is possible the US will provide air-to-air refuelling.
A good many people in the United States must be asking themselves the same question as news comes through that President Obama, laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize, is stepping up American military presence in West Africa.
What is most bothersome is the apparent ad hoc way of making important decisions about defence, which means, in effect that it is the other side, in this case, Islamist militias who decide how and when we become involved. Is it not time to have some kind of a discussion as to what our foreign policy is and then think what kind of defence policy we need to further it?