Untold cost of sending troops to Mali

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THERE may be no combat boots on the ground yet, but there is an ominous sense of déjà vu about the news that 330 British soldiers are being sent to Mali to help with the French-led operation (your report, 30 January).

The coalition government is making swingeing cuts on benefits at home, but appears to see nothing incongruous about the alacrity with which it is prepared to offer transport, training and surveillance assistance to a military campaign abroad.

The long-suffering, sorely pressed UK taxpayers are entitled to ask how much all this is going to cost, if Prime Minister David Cameron has put a cap on the amount he is generously prepared to spend, and how many other countries are lining up to commit their soldiers and their finances to this North African adventure.

For more than a decade, a bitter, bloody and unwinnable war has been raging in Afghanistan, with heavy losses among Afghan civilians and UK soldiers.

This year will see the tenth anniversary of the previous Labour government’s illegal war in Iraq, which must rank as one of the UK’s most shameful foreign policy ­disasters of all time.

And now another war, and another British government decides to get involved.

We Are All In This Together. Now we all seem to be in it with the French.

Ruth Marr

Grampian Road


AS ONE of our longest and most foolish military adventures draws to a close, the British public is weary of conflict and wary of further involvement in unwinnable wars.

And yet Prime Minister David Cameron has agreed to act as the “cat’s paw” in France’s latest incursion into Africa to combat nomads armed with the very weapons with which we flooded Libya (your report, 30 January).

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond insisted there would be no “mission creep” and our boys will only train local troops and provide intelligence, surveillance and logistics.

However, as Mandy Rice-Davies observed of one earlier Tory politician, “Well he would say that, wouldn’t he?” and the US public was told exactly the same when America first sent in military advisers to Vietnam.

Having just confirmed the old maxim, “It is a great deal easier to march into Afghanistan than to march out again”, a period of detached reflection would be welcome.

(Dr) John Cameron

Howard Place
St Andrews

IS BRITAIN becoming the Russell Crowe of Europe? Whenever there is strife, Britain refuses to act like a European Union wallflower and offers assistance, in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria and now in Mali.

France is taking the lead in Mali with Britain offering logistical support. But where are our fellow Europeans? What about Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Ireland?

Why can’t the EU have a collective armed service rather than leave it up to just a few individual EU nations? Britain is at risk of becoming Europe’s “muscle” – ignored and mocked by our European partners most of the time until some form of military force is required.

Neil Sinclair

Clarence Street


BRITISH troops being deployed to Mali has been met with extremely bad press.

The people of Mali have suffered decades of danger and violence and if our troops can help improve the situation they are currently in then it should be a good thing.

Eilidh Stanners

Radnor Street