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Mali: Will British Intervention Be Successful Like Kosovo Or A Quagmire Like Afghanistan?

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Britain's announcement confirming the deployment of 330 military personnel to assist French military intervention in Mali has been met with a noticeable air of caution.

David Cameron has framed the limited intervention as part of a wider "generational struggle against terrorism", a phrase that worries some.

There is concern Britain could be sucked into a wider conflict with the former head of the Army, General Sir Mike Jackson, warning that nations could face a "protracted guerrilla warfare".

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Malian soldiers arresting a suspected Islamist in Timbuktu

This position is echoed by Ben Zala of the Oxford Research Group.

He told the Huffington Post UK: "Unfortunately the current British plan in regards to Mali is entirely focused on military training and support.

"This ignores the fact that a purely military approach to trying to address political violence very rarely works.

"The current approach to terrorism and insurgency in North Africa and the Sahel for the British government is fundamentally about reacting to the symptoms rather than the causes."

With British troops still fighting in Afghanistan after more than 11 years, Zala argues that lessons about long-term, post-military strategy should have been learnt and need to be implemented.

He says: "In the case of Mali, there is very little talk of what a post-conflict stabilisation strategy might be let alone a longer-term agenda for addressing the drivers of insecurity.

"The idea still seems to be one of trying to contain instability through the use of military force - except this time it’s about training the armed forces of other countries.

"Without putting more focus on addressing the factors driving these conflicts, it is unlikely that this approach will succeed.”

Thomas Cushman, professor of sociology at Wellesley college, argues "mission creep", the fear that the initially limited intervention could gradually escalate into something larger, should not deter Western governments from doing what they think is right.

He told the Huffington Post UK: "All interventions of any kind can be thwarted by "mission creep", since all interventions necessarily involve unanticipated consequences."

Cushman believes that staying out of conflicts in distant lands is not a good option in the long run.

He says: "You ultimately have to pay the fiddler for what might might be a more gruelling dance down the line.

Questions have inevitably been raised as to why the focus is on Mali and not Syria where far more people have died in a far more clear cut conflict.

Cushman says: "This is the usual question asked by ideological non-interventionists. It assumes that if you can't intervene everywhere, you don't intervene anywhere.

"This leads to paralysis. The best logic, it seems to me is that interventions can be made in situations where you have a good chance of "winning" and that realpolitik keeps the range of possibilities limited."

This would appear to be proven correct by Britain's previous humanitarian interventions.

Those deemed by history to have been "successes" such as Sierra Leone in 2000 and Kosovo in 1998 involved greater firepower and clearly defined goals that were stuck to.

In contrast, Iraq and Afghanistan, whilst certainly involving overwhelming firepower, suffered from ill-defined end points and a political unwillingness to discuss post-military options.

Cushman says: "The complexity of Syria is greater than the complexity of Mali and therefore intervention in the latter has more prospects of success.

"Still, this semi-realist argument vitiates the moral case for intervention to stop mass atrocity when the means are available.

"What is happening in Syria is a gross violation of international law and should be stopped by all means necessary."

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