French troops entered the African country of Mali on January 12. Within days the UK announced that it would be sending two planes to assist French forces. They would only offer logistical support and there would be no 'boots on the ground'.
On January 12, French forces, at the request of the country's leader, entered Mali. On January 13, Sky News reported, 'A British military plane, an RAF C17, will stop in Paris before heading to the West African country of Mali to help the French military operation'.
Initial reports, of the conflict, painted a picture of successes and France's, Francois Hollande, indicated it would be a short, sharp, military effort. That has not proved to be the case.
Breaking news in the UK, Tuesday, was that British forces will be joining the French mission in Mali. Forty troops are to be sent to Mali as part of an EU military training mission. However there are reports that UK PM David Cameron is prepared to send a sizeable British contingent into Mali, to drive back Islamist militants. Insurgents pushed back from Timbuktu set fire to priceless manuscripts.
The Guardian reports Francois Hollande said "Britain was "keen" to provide further military assistance to France". The Huffington Post reports that hundreds of British troops could be sent to Mali. The latest media reports claim that 200 British troops will be heading for Mali.
A week ago 5,300 British army job cuts were announced.
No.10 has now confirmed the number of troops that will be sent to Mail and West Africa. 350. David Cameron still maintains these will not be in a fighting role. UK Defense Secretary Philip Hammond announced the latest news to an almost empty House of Commons, lunchtime Tuesday. The BBC reports, The UK is already sending a C17 transport plane for three months and an RAF Sentinel surveillance aircraft.
Number 10 said it would also allow the US to operate air refuelling flights out of Britain. And it offered 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 The UK has also offered to set up a combined joint logistics HQ in Mali, however so far the French have declined this offer. In the House of Commons the Labour opposition called for further 'clarity on what part the UK might take in the French-led mission'. At time of writing UK PM David Cameron insists it will not be a 'fighting' role.
People in the UK have expressed confusion. 'When is an insurgent an insurgent and when is he or she an ally or the legitimate government of a country?'
The West has bent and twisted the truth for its own ends. Many countries are now involved, either up front or behind the scenes.
The Algerian In Amenas Gas compound siege may have forced the hands of Western leaders. Islamist militant groups have been on the increase in the Middle East and the Maghreb. The West played a major role in destabilising the region.
Perhaps the West decided to throw its hand in with rebels in Egypt and Libya knowing that the writing was on the wall. Perhaps it knew what was going and, mistakenly it seems, believed the new regimes would be allies. Better to run with the crowd than stand against them?
Whatever is going on it is now certain that British troops, already stretched due to job cuts, will be deployed in the Maghreb region. The country does not have the will not the money for more conflict. As troops finally return from Afghanistan it looks they will be sent to cause more mayhem in another country. Because that is the problem.
For all the work done Afghanistan remains a troubled country. For all the lives lost, civilian and military. For all the good intentions, by some, we have merely added to the problems of Afghanistan.
The West used to run scared of the 'Reds'. The 'Commies'. Now it runs scared of the spread of militant Islamist groups. Perhaps, if we had considered the long view during the Arab Spring, and earlier, we would not be about to become involved in yet another conflict.