British troops to be sent to Somalia as military commitment spreads across Africa
Thursday, February 7, 2013
British troops are to be deployed to Somalia, opening up a new front in its military commitment in Africa.
Amid fears of ‘mission creep’ in UK involvement in the region, soldiers are to be sent to Mogadishu to provide security for a new embassy.
It is the latest stage in David Cameron’s commitment to providing advice and training to Africa Union forces in taking on Al Qaeda-linked insurgents.
Ministers today published an International Defence Engagement Strategy setting out defence activity, which stops short of combat operations. It insists efforts will be focussed on 'those countries which are most important to our national interests'.
The Prime Minister has warned that ‘Al Qaeda franchises thrive where there are weak political institutions, political instability and the failure to address long-standing political grievances’.
It is hoped the opening of an embassy in Somalia will strengthen ties with the country where African Union forces are locked in fierce fighting with the al-Shabaab.
Britain is offering extra help to the Somalia government which is locked in protracted fighting with the al Shabaab militant group
In addition to a new pen a new Defence Section in the new British Embassy in Mogadishu, it also commits to a Defence Attaché and Defence Section in the British Embassy in Burma and a Defence Section in Juba, South Sudan.
There will also be closer work with Libya, including training its military, especially its Navy and Air Force, and helping to establish bomb disposal and defence language schools.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: 'Defence, and in particular the Armed Forces, plays an important role in delivering Britain’s international objectives, drawing on our reputation and capabilities.
'This strategy is welcome at a time of limited financial resources, providing a means to focus our assets and activities such that we can make an even greater contribution to securing a safe and prosperous future for the UK.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said the strategy will 'help the UK to work more effectively to deliver our foreign policy objectives, delivering an integrated approach drawing on all of the levers of power across government'.
However, it comes after Britain committed more than 330 troops to the French military effort against Islamist militants in Mali, amid warnings that the conflict in Africa could last for years.
Up to 240 troops could be deployed to train the Malian and prepare combat troops from neighbouring west African countries, while around 90 personnel are providing a transport aircraft and spy plane.
Last week Mr Cameron used a surprise trip to Libya to promise Britain would provide more advice and training to security forces in the country.
'The British people want to stand with you and help you deliver the greater security that Libya needs,’ he told recruits at a police academy.
'So we have offered training and support from our police and our military. We look forward to working together in the years ahead.'
An African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) deployment is expected to see up to 200 British troops training combat troops from neighbouring English-speaking African countries which could then be sent in to Mali.