The number of British personnel potentially involved in the Mali crisis rose dramatically again this morning.
Downing Street have been explaining what offers the UK have made to the military effort.
There are three strands:
- 1. Assistance to the French Military
One of the C-17 transport planes will continue to help the French for 3 months; 20 crew involved.
The Sentinel intelligence gathering plane will continue to fly from Senegal; 70 crew in all. These numbers we knew about.
In addition the possibility of lending a roll on/roll off ferry - possibly from the Royal Fleet Auxiliary - is under discussion.
The French have turned down the offer of a contribution to a Combined Joint Logistics base but there may be some help in basing refuelling aircraft in the UK.
- 2. The EU Training Mission
EU military attaches are holding a Force Generation Conference today.
The British offer to the mission they are discussing is up to 40 personnel. The preference seems to be for a training role rather than a force protection role.
- 3. Training to the wider African Union mission (known as AFISMA)
An additional 200 British personnel could be sent to train troops from Anglophone West African nations who could then take part in missions in Mali.
Where this training would take place (i.e. whether in Mali or not) is still being discussed by the Deputy National Security Advisor in Addis Ababa.
The UK may contribute £5 million pounds towards this mission too.
All in all that's 330 personnel potentially involved in this operation even before the commitment to involve a ferry. The number is increasing.
But Downing Street remains firm on this point (publicly, and they say, with allies): there are no plans for British troops to take on any combat role in Mali.