London: Britain will send 250 additional soldiers to Iraq to help the Iraqi Army build on the recent sucess in combating Islamic State terrorists who have occupied large swathes of land in the country.
Most of the soldiers will be going to Al Asad airbase at Anbar province in western Iraq, around 160 km west of the capital Baghdad. The decision to send additional troops comes less than a week ahead of the Iraq inquiry report into Britain’s involvement in the Iraq War.
The troops include 50 trainers, 90 soldiers to protect the base and 30 to set up a headquarters. About 80 engineers will work on infrastructure for six months.
“Iraqi forces have Daesh [ISIS] on the back foot and are retaking territory, hitting its finances and striking its leadership. This deployment will help the Iraqi forces to build on this success and push them back further,” Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said.
Earlier this month, ISIS lost its stronghold of Fallujah, one of the first big Iraqi cities to fall in the hands of dreaded terror group in January 2014. The UK government has asserted that the forces will not be there to fight and will be confined to the limits of the base.
In his written statement to UK Parliament, Fallon added: “Our strike aircraft have now conducted around 900 air strikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria and our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft provide niche and highly-valued capabilities.
“On the ground, our forces have helped to train more than 18,000 members of the Iraqi security forces, including Kurdish forces. “As Iraqi forces continue to regain territory and begin preparatory operations to retake Mosul, it is important that the coalition continues to provide the support needed to allow them to make further progress,” he said.
Around 300 British personnel are already in the country helping to train Iraqi and Kurdish forces. American generals had asked Britain to boost its troop contingent to the international coalition as commanders hope to capitalise on momentum which has seen ISIS lose large parts of its self-style Caliphate in recent months.
UK combat operations in Iraq had officially ended in April 2009.