Iraq will be hosting troops from the United Kingdom (UK) for the first time since 2011. Britain is sending a small group of officers into Baghdad in order to support Iraqi forces combatting the Islamic State (IS). The officers will join US soldiers in their already established headquarters. Other training teams might be sent to aid the Kurdish in the north while more will be sent into the region at an undetermined date.
According to a senior defense source this training is being done as part of a “package of support” that is intended to bolster the ability of the military in Iraq to fight IS. This move by the British government comes as a result of increased pressure from MPs, campaigners, and senior military officials to be more proactive in stopping the IS in country. The new Iraqi prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has accepted international help as long as it remains small-scale. His forces have been struggling to regain territory that has already fallen to IS. According to an assessment by the Pentagon at least half of their units were “incompetent.” The United States agreed to send roughly 500 soldiers to the region as well as Iraq to help retrain the army. According to sources, Iraq’s stability is paramount in the fight against IS. If it can maintain its stability, then pressure can be put on Syria. If it falls or the government becomes “sectarian,” then it will be a problem.
Britain’s Defense Secretary, Michael Fallon, has stated that this small mission will not result in combat troops being deployed. During a visit in Baghdad, according to the BBC, Fallon said the Iraqi soldiers were progressing in the fight against IS but that they need more assistance from Britain, thus the move to send troops for the first time since 2011. Fallon said they would be accelerating their program to help especially in areas where they have prior experience like counter-IED tactics and car bombs. Both are things they learned how to deal with in Afghanistan. The UK is already performing airstrikes in the region and plans to increase the number of drones in the area to provide surveillance and intelligence reconnaissance to the army.
Sending troops to the area to fight IS comes after statements made earlier in the year by Prime Minister David Cameron who said there would be no “boots on the ground” and that Britain would not be involved in a second war in Iraq. These statements came after Britain had agreed to assist and support US-led Airstrikes against IS following parliamentary approval for military action. There is a “red line” in terms of how involved Britain is willing to get when it comes to combat missions.
It has been since 2011 that Iraq has hosted troops from the UK, but along with the U.S., the move could help stabilize the area and increase the chances of victory against IS. According to a poll by CBS 85 percent of Americans express concern that US involvement in both Iraq and Syria will result in a lengthy and “costly involvement” however, 47 percent favor sending ground troops and 71 percent supported the initial airstrikes.
By Clara Goode
Picture Source: Cpl Si Longworth RLC – Flickr License