Cameron's African adventure: what is he getting us into?
General Cameron's 'war on terror' in Algeria and Mali makes a mockery of the last defence review
GENERAL CAMERON has told journalists on his trip to Algeria that defence spending will go up after 2015 to cope with the extra demands being placed on Britain's armed forces with the extension of the war on terror in Africa.
Iain Watson is breaking the story for the Beeb back in London but Nick Robinson, the BBC political editor, who is on board the PM's plane (next stop Libya), hinted this morning that it came from a private briefing for those hacks on the trip.
Watson is reporting that Cameron will stick to a pledge he made in 2010 to increase the spending on defence above the rate of inflation in the year 2015-16 which overlaps the general election, but which has to be settled before the coalition parties go to the country.
Cameron had little choice but to reiterate his promise - otherwise he would look foolish committing Britain to a war on terrorism in Africa while continuing with 20 per cent cuts in defence, which will reduce Britain's troops from over 100,000 to around 80,000. The Daily Telegraph has also reported that defence chiefs were worried that the cuts would hit the SAS and Britain’s other special forces.
But it still begs a lot of questions. Just how deep are we getting into further spending on defence with the PM’s commitment to put boots on the ground in Mali and yesterday's offer of a "security partnership" with Algeria, entailing their access to UK intelligence and the deployment – once again - of an unspecified number of British military personnel.
The leader writers are saying this morning that Cameron would be better focusing on the needs of Newcastle rather than Timbuktu. The Independent warns of "mission creep" and the Daily Mail is saying that the commitment to more defence spending could lead to cuts elsewhere in previously protected budgets such as benefits for pensioners and health.
Even Cameron’s own backbenchers are beginning to ask why General Cameron is doing it. He may see himself as the "heir to Blair", but does he really want to to copy Tony Blair's posturing as a war leader, which led Britain into the disastrous invasion of Iraq?
The whole thrust of Cameron's promises on the new war against terrorism in Africa – and we don’t know precisely what he is getting us into in Mali or Algeria yet – make a mockery of the last defence review.
Cameron's pledge to increase spending on defence also suggests that he is planning to go ahead with the £50bn-plus replacement for the Trident nuclear weapon system. But Trident 2 is designed to maintain a deterrent capable of destroying Moscow and Beijing not Timbuktu.
The Lib Dems are dead against the Trident replacement. Cameron may therefore find that his foreign adventures will bring him war at home – against his coalition partners.