Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said he expects UK military personnel to be deployed in Mali for 15 months.
When he was asked about the 'end game', he replied: "[It will take] 15 months to train the Malian Army, to get it ready and equipped to defend the country and ensure stability across the territory, ensuring that al-Qaida and its affiliates cannot organise or exercise freedom of movement in Mali."
He said the UK's commitment included up to 40 British personnel, 37 military and three civilians, who will join an EU training mission of up to 500 people in total.
They will "deploy to Mali and will train troops coming in from the neighbouring African nations and the Malian army itself, in preparation for operations in Mali," he said.
Mr Hammond added: "We have invited the Irish to send a small contingent to joins us. So we will have Royal Irish Regiment deploying from the British Army, and a small force of Irish Army soldiers joining them. That's quite an historic moment."