London: Britain could become ‘bogged down’ in a Vietnam-style conflict in Mali for years, MPs and military experts in the UK have warned.
As British Prime Minister David Cameron ordered 330 troops to go to the troubled West African state to support the French-led assault on al-Qaeda-affiliated insurgents, alarmed military commanders raised fears of a ‘mission creep’.
Cameron’s decision, reached after top-level talks with Paris, represents a major escalation of British efforts to tackle Islamists involved in the uprising in Mali and the massacre at the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria, the Daily Mail reports.
Ministers insisted the troops’ role would be limited to training African soldiers and providing experts in intelligence, surveillance and logistics.
According to the report, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, however, said there was ‘no intention’ of UK units being involved in combat.
But it fuelled fears that UK forces could be sucked deeper into another open-ended conflict in a Muslim country.
The former Armed Forces minister Sir Nick Harvey said the number of British troops involved could ‘begin to climb quite rapidly’ if the situation on the ground changed, and warned they would be needed for ‘a good many years’.
General Sir Mike Jackson, the former head of the Army, warned that the intervention could lead to ‘protracted guerilla warfare’ with insurgents.
In a statement to the Commons, Hammond outlined the UK’s deployment to the region.
It comes after the French and Malian military entered the historic city of Timbuktu as Islamist fighters fled rather than fight, the report added.