UK & World News

  • 14 February 2013, 0:58

Labour Accuses Government Over Mali Conflict

The Labour Party will today accuse the government of failing to prevent conflict in Mali and not learning the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan in the approach to defeating terrorism in North Africa.

In a speech later this morning, the Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy will say Mali is a "failure in prevention and foresight" and "trainers should be sent to deter a crisis rather than in response to it".

The final details of the EU Training Force, to which the UK is expected to commit around 20 soldiers, is still being agreed on by European politicians.

The issue of which country will provide force protection has been a sticking point.

The UK government, aware that it would be accused of putting combat boots on the ground if it agreed to provide such a capability, has dug its heels in. However, an announcement is expected in the next few days, possibly early next week.

Additionally a similar African-led training mission, which will also include British troops, is nearing approval.

Mr Murphy will cite what he describes as the controversies of Afghanistan and Iraq to make the point that the UK has a responsibility to provide security beyond its borders.

The speech will suggest that Britain "should be haunted by the isolationist reticence of Douglas Hurd over Bosnia and the tragedy we witnessed in Rwanda".

He will put forward the case for "adaptable armed forces, highly trained and culturally aware, (that) would proactively engage with fragile nations, potentially longer-term, with a focus on training and combat-prevention.

"The principle would be to invest early, making substantial intervention less likely and in the event of escalation success more likely, as well as improving post-conflict planning."

The heart of his argument will be a recommendation that British and NATO Forces should receive better cultural and language training and develop humanitarian skills.

Mr Murphy will suggest that the widely admired Sandhurst Officers Training Academy be replicated abroad in countries that need it. Equally there should be more places for future military leaders from at-risk developing nations at Sandhurst, Cranwell and Dartmouth.

As the Afghan conflict comes to an end in 2014, local soldiers will assume an increasingly frontline role in the war. The next deployment of British forces, due to go to Afghanistan in April, will support, mentor and advise their Afghan colleagues rather than lead them.

Their development is key to the future security and prosperity of Afghanistan. It is expected some ISAF troops, mainly American, will remain in the country post-2014, but exact figures have yet to be decided and Washington and Kabul negotiate the terms of that operation.