Algerian Hostage Crisis Prompts Fresh Assessment Of British Foreign Policy

Algerian Hostage Crisis Raises Foreign Policy Questions

Britain's foreign policy will need fresh assessment in the wake of the Algerian hostage crisis a number of senior political figures have said.

Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander told the Sky News Murnaghan programme that he hoped there would be an opportunity for questions and answers over the immediate response to the attack and that the implications for the UK and other nations could be eamined.

He said: "Well, the crisis is resolved but obviously the first thoughts this morning have to be with those British families who've lost loved ones in this appalling incident, but it now turns to both as the Prime Minister has suggested identifying bodies on the site and making sure that there is safe passage and urgent return for those UK nationals still in Algeria.

Lord Stirrup stressed how risky the rescue operation was

"My hope would be that then there would be the opportunity for both questions to be asked and answers to be provided. Not just about the immediate response that was undertaken to this attack but also, more broadly, what are the implications for the foreign policy of the UK and indeed of the other affected countries."

David Cameron has confirmed that three British nationals have been killed in Algeria, a further three are believed to be dead and a British resident has also died.

Five suspected members of the Islamist group behind the attack have been arrested at the In Amenas gas plant, reports the BBC.

Alexander said the responsibility for what happened in the desert "lies squarely with the hostage takers and with the terrorists" who stormed the facility.

He added it was a "time for caution and for cool heads" within the British Government and other western governments in judging how to respond more broadly to the security challenges faced in north and west Africa.

He said: "There is no benefit in taking a number of disparate, regional disputes and cohering them together into a suggestion somehow of a global war against terror.

"I think we need the humility to understand as well as the commitment to act to support those who are best placed to lead the response and I would argue very strongly that there needs to be an African-led response to the challenges in the Sahel."

Fox said: "Our interests, whether we like it or not, are now going to be threatened in many more parts of the globe than before."

Former Chief of the Defence Staff Lord Stirrup said any hostage rescue operation was an extremely hazardous undertaking, adding: "You only launch such an operation when you're clear that the risks involved are less than the risks of not undertaking that operation."

He told the Sky News Murnaghan programme: "Whenever hostages sadly are killed in such an operation, there's always a tendency to describe it as a botched operation.

"Well, there may have been mistakes but there may not. We need to be clear that these are always very hazardous operations and when you launch them it is always done in a clear knowledge that there's a high risk you will lose people in the rescuers and amongst those you are seeking to rescue."

Lord Stirrup said Britain needed to be "very careful how we tread in this particular area".

He said: "There is a tendency to characterise this as some sort of global jihadist campaign when, in fact, in many circumstances in many of these areas they are regional disputes that have been going on for years, if not decades."

Former defence secretary Dr Liam Fox said Britain had to find new ways of co-operating with its allies.

He told BBC One's Sunday Politics programme: "That the era when governments could choose to stand back and say, 'that is not a part of the world that we collectively are going to be involved in' is over.

"We live now in a very interconnected global economy. Our interests, whether we like it or not, are now going to be threatened in many more parts of the globe than before, and we're going to have to find new ways of co-operating in terms of intelligence, in terms of our military hardware.

"None of us can afford to do everything. We'll have to find ways of co-operating with our allies, and if it's for the Americans to put drones over these areas so that we can collectively get better information on how to act, then that's how we're going to have to do it.

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