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Published on January 18th, 2013 | by Yazmin Gachette
Image © [caption id="attachment_11631" align="alignnone" width="566"] Fighters from Islamist group Ansar Dine stand guard in Timbuktu, Mali, as they prepare to publicly lash a member of the Islamic Police found guilty of adultery. (AP Photo, File)[/caption] On Friday 11th January 2013, France deployed 550 soldiers to Mali following former French colony’s call for help fighting Islamic militants in the Northern part of the country. On Saturday 12th January, David Cameron revealed UK cargo planes and kit supplies would be flown to Mali to support French work in the region. But what does this really mean? How involved is the UK really getting in Mali’s domestic affairs and France’s foreign affairs? Though David Cameron denied that British troops will place their “army boots on the ground,” the supplement of kit and aircraft speaks extremely loudly on the international stage as to where Britain stands in relation to France and Mali and indeed, combatting terrorism. In bowing down to Francois Hollande’s call for help, David Cameron very boldly has offered a helping hand, one that will perhaps be led down a one way road to another lengthy mission. It also suggests that Britain still believes direct military action is the best way in combatting the global terrorist threat – something that America under Obama has perhaps come to realise is not the only solution. Maybe Britain should follow America in reaching a hand out to countries prone to terrorism and engaging soft power, as President Obama did in his Cairo Speech, instead of tanks and soldiers that are currently it’s preferred method of gaining results. Let us not forget the situation of Mali. Mali, like many countries in Africa has vast regions of desert land that foreign troops are not accustomed to. This adds time, cost and resources to any mission in this region and it is clear that Britain does not currently have any of the above to offer. Remoteness and lack of an effective government are exactly what extremists look for in finding hidden locations to form cells and networks. Maybe France and Britain have walked into the trap that many extremists perhaps hoped for; another opportunity to humiliate Western Liberal Democracies and their approach at dealing with terrorists - or freedom fighters, depending on your views. Another question to be asked is where does this mission end? Mali, a landlocked country, offers the perfect location for extremists to manoeuvre and spread out beyond borders. Thus, at what point do French, and possibly British, troops decide to leave the former colony and go home? There have been many situations in the past – particularly in Africa where missions have been started and not finished correctly, such as Somalia in 1993. Whilst Somalia was a peacekeeping mission, it still speaks loudly about the Western world’s success in this region, and implies perhaps a change of tactic is needed when dealing with African nations? Britain also needs to be careful of its appearance on the world stage. After the controversy of the Iraq war in 2003, Britain’s reputation was heavily tarnished and this affected its willingness to become involved in other subsequent missions – something that soon became known as the Iraqi syndrome. The intervention in Libya in 2011 was the first step forward in rebuilding links with countries beyond Europe and North America. Thus, Britain must be careful in how aggressive it is on the world stage, and by aggressive, even supporting hostile missions could create blow-back. So what should Britain’s next steps be? David Cameron needs to assert to France that Britain will do no more than merely supply equipment – though exactly why France got involved in Mali if it did not have sufficient equipment at hand is a wonder. France needs to be particularly careful that it does not become too concerned with Mali’s affairs, and perhaps should think of a strategy to train Mali’s troops to deal with terrorist threats in future, which is arguably a more progressive solution. It also needs to remember its relative position and the simple fact that Mali is an ex-colony and we are beyond imperial or colonial times. Perhaps Mali and African Union Troops should be left alone to deal with terrorists? Likewise, Britain needs to be careful it does not get too involved in Mali, or indeed, France’s affairs and ensure it does not get drawn down the one way road to an even more turbulent relationship with extremists.

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British support for France in Mali. A one way road?

Fighters from Islamist group Ansar Dine stand guard in Timbuktu, Mali, as they prepare to publicly lash a member of the Islamic Police found guilty of adultery. (AP Photo, File)

On Friday 11th January 2013, France deployed 550 soldiers to Mali following former French colony’s call for help fighting Islamic militants in the Northern part of the country. On Saturday 12th January, David Cameron revealed UK cargo planes and kit supplies would be flown to Mali to support French work in the region. But what does this really mean? How involved is the UK really getting in Mali’s domestic affairs and France’s foreign affairs?

Though David Cameron denied that British troops will place their “army boots on the ground,” the supplement of kit and aircraft speaks extremely loudly on the international stage as to where Britain stands in relation to France and Mali and indeed, combatting terrorism. In bowing down to Francois Hollande’s call for help, David Cameron very boldly has offered a helping hand, one that will perhaps be led down a one way road to another lengthy mission. It also suggests that Britain still believes direct military action is the best way in combatting the global terrorist threat – something that America under Obama has perhaps come to realise is not the only solution. Maybe Britain should follow America in reaching a hand out to countries prone to terrorism and engaging soft power, as President Obama did in his Cairo Speech, instead of tanks and soldiers that are currently it’s preferred method of gaining results.

Let us not forget the situation of Mali. Mali, like many countries in Africa has vast regions of desert land that foreign troops are not accustomed to. This adds time, cost and resources to any mission in this region and it is clear that Britain does not currently have any of the above to offer. Remoteness and lack of an effective government are exactly what extremists look for in finding hidden locations to form cells and networks. Maybe France and Britain have walked into the trap that many extremists perhaps hoped for; another opportunity to humiliate Western Liberal Democracies and their approach at dealing with terrorists – or freedom fighters, depending on your views.

Another question to be asked is where does this mission end? Mali, a landlocked country, offers the perfect location for extremists to manoeuvre and spread out beyond borders. Thus, at what point do French, and possibly British, troops decide to leave the former colony and go home? There have been many situations in the past – particularly in Africa where missions have been started and not finished correctly, such as Somalia in 1993. Whilst Somalia was a peacekeeping mission, it still speaks loudly about the Western world’s success in this region, and implies perhaps a change of tactic is needed when dealing with African nations?

Britain also needs to be careful of its appearance on the world stage. After the controversy of the Iraq war in 2003, Britain’s reputation was heavily tarnished and this affected its willingness to become involved in other subsequent missions – something that soon became known as the Iraqi syndrome. The intervention in Libya in 2011 was the first step forward in rebuilding links with countries beyond Europe and North America. Thus, Britain must be careful in how aggressive it is on the world stage, and by aggressive, even supporting hostile missions could create blow-back.

So what should Britain’s next steps be? David Cameron needs to assert to France that Britain will do no more than merely supply equipment – though exactly why France got involved in Mali if it did not have sufficient equipment at hand is a wonder. France needs to be particularly careful that it does not become too concerned with Mali’s affairs, and perhaps should think of a strategy to train Mali’s troops to deal with terrorist threats in future, which is arguably a more progressive solution. It also needs to remember its relative position and the simple fact that Mali is an ex-colony and we are beyond imperial or colonial times. Perhaps Mali and African Union Troops should be left alone to deal with terrorists? Likewise, Britain needs to be careful it does not get too involved in Mali, or indeed, France’s affairs and ensure it does not get drawn down the one way road to an even more turbulent relationship with extremists.

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About the Author

Yazmin Gachette

My name is Yazmin Gachette, though I prefer to be known as Yaz. I'm aged 19 and currently in my first year studying Politics at a London University. In the future, I'd like to be a journalist, though I am keen on working in an MP's office upon graduation to gain a different perspective to politics. I would also like to pursue my interest in mountaineering beyond trips to the Lake District, Peak District and Snowdonia. I have a background in the Cadet Forces, so I particularly enjoy debating military news.



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