British troops going back to Iraq to help local forces fight ISIL militants
LONDON: Britain is sending troops back to Iraq to help
local forces in the battle against Islamic State militants, the Defence
Secretary has confirmed.
Michael Fallon said the UK was “stepping up” its
military presence in the country, with its forces offering further training to
Iraqi soldiers and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. It comes after a “small
specialist” team was sent to instruct Peshmerga in the northern city of Irbil
Fallon, who visited British army trainers teaching
Peshmerga fighters how to use heavy machine guns given by Britain, insisted
that no combat troops will be deployed to Iraq. He said the latest move would
see UK troops teaching Kurds infantry skills such as sharp-shooting and first
aid, while more equipment will be provided.
The UK will also send advisory personnel to Iraqi
headquarters. There have been growing calls to provide more assistance to new
Iraqi prime minister Haider al Abadi as his country’s forces struggle to
reclaim territory from IS in the north and west.
Fallon held talks in Baghdad with the PM and Iraqi
security advisers, before flying north to Irbil to met the President of the
Kurdistan regional government Masoud Barzani and prime minister Nechirvan
Barzani. “The need is now,” he said.
“It’s a very immediate challenge from ISIL. As they
start to push ISIL back out of the villages and towns that ISIL have gone into
they are going to need this kind of assistance with roadside bombs,
particularly to counter the terror tactics that ISIL have been using.
“So, we are looking very urgently now how we can get
more training help to them in the next few weeks.”
Asked about concerns of mission creep, he said, “This
is a very limited mission. The Prime Minister’s made it very, very clear we are
not going to recommit combat troops to Iraq. We’ve been there, we’ve done that.
“What we are going to do is to help the new government
of Iraq and its own army take the fight to ISIL through the aircraft we have
deployed in the sky, through intelligence gathering, and through specialist
British troops took
part in the 2003 invasion of Iraq that overthrew Saddam Hussein, and later took
responsibility for Basra and the south of the country.