It was just a fortnight ago when I wrote about our providing transport planes to assist the French in Mali and predicted that it wouldn't be long before we had troops on the ground.
Today the Telegraph reports that we are to provide 300 troops to help in Mali and adjacent countries. Whether this is in addition to the 70 Service personnel sent to Senegal who are operating a Sentinel spy plane and the 20 others who are operating the C-17 transport is unclear, Nevertheless it is a significant increase in our involvement in the area.
The troops, we are told, will only be involved in training roles, and in particular helping with the training of soldiers from Nigeria and Ghana, which are supplying support to the Malian government. Let us hope we have no incidents, as in Afghanistan, of the troops under training shooting their instructors.
Certainly ensuring stability in this part of North Africa is in our interests, which is far more than can be claimed for our presence in Afghanistan, but I believe that our government needs to "come clean" about our present, and likely future involvement. Certainly there should be a Parliamentary debate in the near future.
In a related matter, it seems that BP was warned by the Algerian authorities that a relative of an al-Qaeda leader worked in a senior position in a company that provided transport at the In Amenas site, It is know however that the Algerian Intelligence Services are not particularly scrupulous about how they obtain their information and our Intelligence Services have been told not to use information which may have been obtained by torture. Could political correctness or human rights consideration have prevented the information being used by BP?
Alastair Campbell New Hereditary Peer
5 minutes ago