Fraser Nelson Fraser Nelson

Could Mali become Cameron’s third war?

For a man cutting the military budget so much, David Cameron does seem to like using the Armed Forces. His personal conviction to act in Libya played a major part in deposing Col Gadaffi – after Afghanistan, his second war. And tonight, it looks like there may be a third. He has just offered the RAF support to the French, whose military is trying to oust al-Qaeda from their former colony in Mali. No10 has just released the following statement:-

“The Prime Minister spoke to President Hollande this evening to discuss the deteriorating situation in Mali and how the UK can support French military assistance provided to the Malian Government to contain rebel and extremist groups in the north of the country. The Prime Minister has agreed that the UK will provide logistical military assistance to help transport foreign troops and equipment quickly to Mali. We will not be deploying any British personnel in a combat role…

Both leaders agreed that the situation in Mali poses a real threat to international security given terrorist activity there. They discussed the need to work with the Malian Government, regional neighbours and international partners to prevent a new terrorist haven developing on Europe’s doorstep and to reinvigorate the UN led political process once the rebel advance has been halted.”

It looks like this means lending th French two of the RAF’s C-17s, which are basically flying warehouses. But what could come next? Spectator subscribers will be fully-briefed on Mali. Last September, the impeccably-informed Con Coughin had this to say about future British involvement:-

Word among senior British military officers is that, if it becomes necessary to neutralise the Mali threat, it will be left to our much-vaunted and overworked special forces to take the action required. Britain would not deploy a large combat element of the kind dispatched to Sierra Leone in 2000.

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