29 January, 2013

More Mali

First it was a couple of transport aircraft to help the French intervene in a former colony. Then it was a surveillance plane. Then talk of training. There were to be no 'boots on the ground'. Now it is said that Britain already has special forces operating in Mali and that there will be a small contingent of regular troops.

Are we sleepwalking into another Afghanistan?

In the meantime French forces report minimal resistance as they reach Timbuktu. This is not necessarily a good thing: it is likely to mean the resistance fighters have simply melted into the crowds and that they will pursue their ends in terrorist fashion.

You can see it all coming. Franco-British forces will say they can't pull out until the country is 'stabilised' or some such word. Their very presence will cause dissent, terrorism, instability.

Someone in the British Parliament needs to ask whether we have learned the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan. We need to know who we are helping: what sort of people are they? What are their beliefs? Are we risking British soldiers' lives to install one set of brutal dictators over another? Did our intervention in Libya cause the threat from Mali? Did our recent intervention in Mali cause the In Amenas kidnapping where 38 people died?

And finally: is instability in Mali so very, very threatening to Britain? I heard some fool on the radio say that North Africa was too close to permit terrorist regimes. Mali's capital Bamako is about 4,500 km away, the same as Tehran.

Have we really any idea what we are up to?

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