Britain Prepares To Send Troops To Iraq Despite £1bn Defence Cuts

Only hours after news emerged that the Ministry of Defence had been told to find £1bn to cut from its budget, the National Security Council discussed sending British troops into Iraq.

The troops will be sent to join the US military mission to train forces battling Islamic State (IS) in an extension of the UK mission, currently based in the Kurdish-held area of the war-torn country, the Evening Standard reports.

The council, which meets weekly and is chaired by David Cameron, is set to approve the expansion in troop deployment after the Army is said to be ready to go ahead.

The mission would incorporate different specialist groups to train forces fighting the Islamic terrorists in Iraq who have been making gains in the country despite air strikes on key targets. These would include members from the Explosive Ordinance Disposal who counter roadside bombs and IEDs which were the bedrock in the attack on ISAF forces in Afghanistan.

The bomb disposal experts would work alongside the American trainers in Baghdad but also operate outside the city where the US is training Iraqi forces.

Britain already has more than 100 military personnel in the north of the country, training 1,200 peshmerga fighters in infantry skills including skill at arms, battlefield first aid and counter-IED operations.

But soldier turned politician Mike Hookem said the decision to send more troops out while breaking a manifesto promise only two days into the term of office demonstrated troops will be expected to “do more for less”.

He  slammed the news that the Ministry of Defence had been told to find the savings while the international development budget remains protected.

“With the threat of Islamic State growing each day and our American friends warning us that we need to step up and meet NATO targets for defence spending the last thing we need is our defence budget being slashed,” he said.
“We have a serious threat of terrorism being imported from the Middle East and North Africa because of our porous borders with the EU and we should be looking at ensuring the Armed Forces and security services are at full operational strength, not whittled down to nothing while we through billions abroad to aid projects which are never properly audited.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “As part of coalition efforts against Isil, UK personnel are already designing and delivering training to the Iraqi security forces which includes counter-IED training.

“Nearly 800 UK personnel are deployed on operations in the region, helping Iraqis to strengthen and mobilise against Isil, and we will continue to keep our contribution under regular review.”

It was only yesterday that sources in the Ministry of Defence admitted the cut backs will mean Britain won’t be able to get involved in as many operations. They told The Times a saving of £1bn by the end of March 2015 “would not be a thing you could just swallow and carry on.”

 


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