Cameron in Algeria: Political logic or terrorist threat?

David Cameron visits the Monument des Martyrs on his arrival in Algiers, Algeria, with Algerian Energy Minister Yousfi Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

David Cameron has arrived in Algiers to offer the authorities here his assistance in the war against Islamic extremism. Some of my colleagues have concluded that is likely to mean Special Forces training, but I am not so sure the Algerians feel the need to take any advice from anyone. I asked a senior security official travelling with the Prime Minister what he thought of his Algerian counterparts. "Brutally effective", he replied.

Mr Cameron says that the West faces here an existential threat, but when we find our news bulletins dominated by reporters signing off from Timbuktu - often the very definition of the middle of nowhere - we are perhaps entitled to wonder how existential that threat really is.

So it is at least worth considering the following points;

  • The PM's team seems pretty frustrated with President Obama at the moment, arguing privately that he seems reluctant to get involved in anything, anywhere. "Could he be doing more in Syria," one said to me the other day, "yes, absolutely."
  • That means that if they want to get anything done anywhere, they have to rely on France, which is the only other European country with an army of any scale.
  • The PM's speech on Europe has underlined the need for allies in the EU. The French have traditionally been our most difficult neighbours, but it is noticeable that Francois Hollande has yet to offer any criticism at all of Mr Cameron's arguments.

So, under these circumstances, helping the French out in Mali must have seemed a pretty simple choice...

Is it more about diplomatic logic than existential threat?