SHAFAQNA – Hundreds of British troops could be sent to Iraq in the New Year, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has said. The deployment – to help train local forces – would be in the “very low hundreds” but could also include a small protection force of combat-ready soldiers, he said. About 50 UK troops are already training Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq.
The Ministry of Defence said a decision on troop numbers had not yet been made. An MoD spokesman also said no final decisions had been made about which units will be sent to Iraq and the locations troops will be deployed to. However, speaking to the Telegraph, Mr Fallon said the fresh troop deployment would be made in January and would be to four training centres that US forces are establishing.
It comes after 12 UK trainers were deployed to Iraq in October to work with Kurdish forces in the northern city of Irbil. Mr Fallon also announced plans to boost the UK numbers further last month. RAF aircraft have been flying missions over Iraq and carrying out air strikes against IS targets since Parliament approved military action on 26 September.British aircraft had flown a “huge number” of missions “second only to the United States, five times as many as France”, Mr Fallon told the newspaper.“Our role now, apart from the air strikes, is increasingly going to be on training,” he said.“In particular, it will mean dealing with car and truck bombs and roadside devices, as well as basic infantry skills.“We have not finalised numbers yet – obviously we have got a lot of kit back from Afghanistan that we can make available – but we are talking very low hundreds.”
Members of the Iraqi police special forcesUK troops will help train Iraqi forces fighting IS, which includes the Iraqi police special forces
British troops would be able to pass on the “lessons we have learnt from Afghanistan”, Mr Fallon added.He said IS fighters were increasingly now “tucked away in towns and villages” as a result of air strikes.“That means they have got to be rooted out by ground troops. This has to be done by an own-grown army, not by western groups.”He stressed that the US training centres – one based in Kurdistan and three near the Iraqi capital Baghdad – were “not where the fighting is”.“They are in safe areas but obviously there’s always a small element of force protection.”The soldiers “will not be expected to fight a war but will be there to defend the British personnel if necessary”, he added.
British forces were pulled out of Iraq in 2011, eight years after the mission that brought down Saddam Hussein.