…Even UK increases aide for the military campaign

Military

Britain increased its offer of aid to France and African governments on Tuesday to help them counter Islamist militants in Africa. However, Britain had limited the scope of its support for fear of being dragged into an Afghanistan-style quagmire.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond told parliament that up to 240 soldiers could take part in missions to train African troops. He said at least 90 more were already taking part in logistical operations to support French troops fighting in Mali.

“The UK has a clear interest in the stability of Mali and ensuring that its territory does not become an ungoverned space available to al Qaeda and its associates,” Hammond said.

“We are very clear about the risks of mission creep and we have defined very carefully the support we are willing and able to provide,” he added.

British troops will not have a combat role, he stressed.

In a further sign of Britain’s concern over developments in North Africa, Prime Minister David Cameron will travel to Algeria on Wednesday, his office said.

An Islamist militant attack on Algeria’s in Amenas natural gas complex earlier this month left at least 38 hostages dead, including up to six Britons. Cameron, who has spoken of a “generational struggle” against Islamist extremists in the region, will meet Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal, a British government source said.

After the gas complex assault, Cameron said Britain needed to “thicken” its contacts with Algeria to help the North African state in its “long running battle against terror.”

Britain will withdraw 9,000 troops from a long and costly mission in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, and has little appetite for another expensive military adventure.

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