David Cameron had two key tasks on his visit to Algeria – the practical necessity of deepening ties with a country he believes can be a useful partner in fighting terrorists; and the political imperative of explaining to the British people that this is not a situation he will allow to run out of control.
The bloody hostage taking in In Amenas, coupled with French military action in Mali (with limited British logistical support), has concentrated attention on the upsurge in al Qaeda-related violence in the region.
The Prime Minister knows there is a perception that the UK risks being sucked into a dangerous and unpredictable situation.
In a press conference at the Algerian President’s palace, he denied that the UK – which is now providing up to 330 military personnel for training and air support – was at risk of getting into another Iraq or Afghanistan-style campaign.
Britain had “learned the lessons of the past”, he said. “These problems are not dealable with through security measures alone.”
The principal objective of the Prime Minister’s visit to Algiers was to deepen collaboration between the two countries on security matters.
Government sources explain this is part of a multifaceted approach to the region, and that anyone who believes military force alone is the answer is misguided.
The objective is that a combination of logistical, security and military training work should ensure that African countries are themselves best prepared to deal with the problems on their doorstep.
This in turn is supposed to be the best protection against unwanted British entanglement in the region.
Nevertheless there is a recognition with the British Government that the task is a challenging one, and the public will most likely continue to take David Cameron’s view that this is a situation that can be managed and contained with a big pinch of salt.
Britain’s Security Key To Cameron’s Algeria Visit – Sky News
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