A small number of the British armed forces will be sent to Iraq within weeks to assist local forces in their battle against Islamic State militants.
Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, has promised that the mission would not lead to the deployment of British combat troops - their role will be to train the Iraqi army to reclaim territory in the west and north of the country:
“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 that we’ve deployed in the sky, through intelligence gathering and through specialist training, particularly in countering IED’s (improvised explosive devices), the roadside bombs, and the car bombs where we have experience to contribute.”
Although specific numbers could not be given, it has been reiterated that Prime Minister David Cameron will not allow combat troops to do anything in Iraq other than airstrikes against Isis.
Speaking in August, David Cameron stated: “Britain is not going to get involved in another war in Iraq. We are not going to be putting boots on the ground. We are not going to be sending in the British Army.”
While promises of there being no further British combat involvement in Iraq, there has been pressure put on the government to assist in curbing Isis’ advancement there, particularly after they captured Mosul, the country’s second largest city.
Although Iraq’s Prime Minister, Haider al Abadi, has stated that Iraq does not need the assistance of any “superpower, international coalition or regional power”, there will be close scrutiny to see if that feeling changes once British troops are in the country lending their assistance.
Although David Cameron realises that committing armed forces back to Iraq will be unpopular with the British electorate, he must weigh up the benefits of ensuring that Isis’ advances are dented.
By allowing Islamic State to take more of Iraq and Syria, any advancements British and US troops made during the Iraq war in stabilising the country would be entirely lost.
It would also be a risky strategy to commit any more money and manpower at a time when the country’s money is said to be so tight. It could also prove a risky strategy so close to the next general election.