Mission creep? Cameron visits Algeria ahead of Mali operation

David Cameron raised further fears of mission creep in north Africa today, when he visited Algeria ahead of an operation sending British personnel to Mali.

The prime minister is visiting his counterpart Abdelmalek Sellal for talks and to pay his respect to the victims of a hostage crisis at a gas plant earlier this month.

The crisis saw Cameron ratchet up his rhetoric on terrorism, with a statement saying the UK was involved in a "generational" struggle against Islamic terrorism.

"I believe we are in the midst of a long struggle against murderous terrorists and a poisonous ideology that supports them," he told the World Economic Forum in Davos last week.

"Just as we've successfully put pressure on al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan, so al-Qaida franchises have been growing for years in Yemen, in Somalia and across parts of

North Africa – places that have suffered hideously through hostage taking, terrorism and crime."

The comments were noticeably more robust than the prime minister's previous statements on terrorism and suggested the gas plant attack had convinced him of the need for British action in north Africa to stem security issues at home.

Up to 330 British troops will be sent to help with France's ongoing operation in Mali, to train local forces and prepare troops from other countries, as well as provide air support.

The offer of help will be welcomed in Paris, which feels increasingly isolated in its fight against Islamist forces in the state, despite widespread support in the international community.

Experts are increasingly concerned about mission creep, with many highlighting the similarities between the Afghanistan situation and that in north Africa.

"The public would like the UK to do less by way of military intervention abroad for a bit, whilst we are sorting out our finances," Tory MP John Redwood wrote on his blog.

"There is no great appetite to get dragged into another war , this time in Mali.

"It is good news that the government has ruled out sending in troops to fight, but there are worries about mission creep and questions about how much spare money and military resource we have to commit to yet another difficult civil war so far away from home."

Thirty-seven foreigners died in this month's Algerian attack, along with at least ten Algerians and dozens of terrorists.