Mali: British Troops May Join French Mission


A decision to send an EU force to train soldiers in Mali is expected to be made in Brussels soon.

The deployment would include a small British contingent, likely to number in the ‘tens’.

Downing Street and the Ministry of Defence are still saying there is no question of combat troops but the Prime Minister has told President Francois Hollande that he is ready to offer more support for the French mission.

The two leaders spoke on Sunday night and Sir Kim Darroch, the Government’s national security adviser, was in Paris for further talks on Monday.

The plan for an EU training mission in west Africa was made late last year but minds were focused when the French military began its mission in Mali.

The UK has already sent two C-17 transport aircraft to help ferry troops and equipment around.

One has left after flying for the initial weekend of the conflict while the second remains on indeterminate loan.

Last Friday, it was announced that a Sentinel aircraft had taken off for Mali to provide surveillance and intelligence gathering capabilities.

It is understood that Britain will add further support to the French mission along these lines.

In recent days, French forces have pushed deep into the north of the country, entering the towns of Gao and Timbuktu.

President Hollande has said they are “winning this battle” and French soldiers appeared to meet little resistance as they seized Timbuktu from Islamists as part of their offensive against the radicals who have controlled the country’s vast desert north for 10 months.

Speaking from the historic city of Timbuktu, Sky News Special Correspondent Alex Crawford said any British soldiers would help Malian troops prepare for a future without French troops through training and logistical expertise.

She estimated around 30 or 40 British troops would be sent “to bolster” the Malian forces, which she described as “very depleted”.