Editors Notes: If UK provides military advisers i.e. special forces, the special operations units will be deployed into Mali from an already established rapid intervention unit currently conducting operations in the Sahel region. Read: French, British, Italian and Spanish Special Military Units Established to Target Al-Qaeda in the Sahel
Britain has decided to support an African force charged with recapturing northern Mali from al-Qaeda and its allies, the Prime Minister’s envoy to the region confirmed on Tuesday.
Stephen O’Brien, a Conservative MP who serves as David Cameron’s special representative to the Sahel, including Mali, will report on what kind of help Britain would provide.
Training the African soldiers who will retake northern Mali would be one option. This force is expected to comprise 6,000 troops, with half coming from the Malian army and half from other African countries. “Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb” (AQIM) and its allies have seized control of three regions of the north, totalling more than 300,000 square miles.
“If we don’t act, we send a message to all secessionist groups that the international community turns a blind eye to states within states,” said Mr O’Brien. “Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is gaining in capability and ambition and, if we don’t act, there is very real threat of further attacks in Africa and, eventually, Europe, the Middle East and beyond.”
The Government has yet to decide what kind of support Britain will offer. But Mr O’Brien said the question was how – and not whether – to help the African force. “I’m scoping out where we can make our best contribution to a common international response which is focused on a locally and regionally led effort. I can’t imagine that the scoping will be saying: ‘do nothing’,” he said.
Mr O’Brien added: “I’m not going in with a closed mind to rule anything out. We will do our best to play our part. I haven’t ruled anything out.”