TSO sends a link to the story in the Guardian that the British are preparing hundreds of troops to lend a hand to the French in Mali as the news that rebels are being forced out of Timbuktu, leaving a smoldering ruin in their wake;
As news emerged that insurgents retreating from Timbuktu had set fire to a library containing thousands of priceless historic manuscripts, Downing Street said the prime minister told François Hollande on Sunday night Britain was “keen” to provide further military assistance to France.
Britain is prepared to provide hundreds of troops to help the operation and is considering a few options:
• Forming part of an EU military training mission in Mali. The British contribution to this would be in the “tens”, according to Downing Street.
• Training troops from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) in neighbouring countries for possible operations on Mali. This is likely to be the main focus of Britain’s contribution because Ecowas members include many countries with strong links to Britain. British troops could be used to train Nigerian forces.
• Providing “force protection” for the trainers. This would be armed protection but would not amount to a combat role.
But, history keeps trying to tell us that declaring troops won’t participate in a combat role, that usually assures us that there will be a combat role forced on them. Especially when the troops are dealing with al Qaeda.
I’m sure it makes the public happy when they read those words, but it also pisses the public off monumentally when the worm turns.