Outsourcing anti-terror: UK sends Kurds £1.6 mn in arms to battle ISIS
Britain is providing heavy machine guns and ammunition to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State (IS) militants, the Ministry of Defence says.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the equipment was worth about £1.6 million, and there would be an estimated £475,000 in transport costs, British media report, citing a ministerial statement.
Fallon said the UK is committed to assisting the Iraqi government and to helping Kurdish forces defend themselves.
He said: "ISILmilitants are guilty of shocking brutality. So I am pleased that we will supply weapons to the Kurdish forces who are at the front line of combating their violent extremism."
He added that the UK wanted to offer help to the Iraqi authorities by "alleviating the humanitarian suffering of those Iraqis targeted by ISIL [Islamic State] terrorists".
The weaponry is due to arrive in Iraq on Wednesday.
The news comes after Iraq created a new government led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, sharing posts between the Shia majority, Sunnis and Kurds.
Fallon also said that Britain wanted to promote "an inclusive, sovereign and democratic Iraq that can push back on ISIL advances and restore stability and security across the country; and working with the international community to tackle the broader threat that ISIL poses to the region and other countries around the world, including the UK."
"The Kurdish forces remain significantly less well equipped than ISIL and we are responding to help them defend themselves, protect citizens and push back ISIL advances."
Speaking after Iraq’s parliament approved the new government, UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: “The formation of Iraq’s new government is an important milestone.”
He added: “This is a critical first step on the way to addressing the serious security, political and humanitarian challenges facing Iraq. It is now vital that all political blocs work together to overcome those challenges, including the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).”
PM David Cameron said on Monday: “We will continue to support the Kurds – including by providing them with arms and training their troops.
“The fight against ISIL must be led by the Iraqis themselves, but we will continue to encourage countries in the region to support this effort and to engage allies across the world.”
Last week, the UK announced it would directly arm Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State militants and sent a senior UK military officer to advise them.
Britain has been transporting non-lethal military equipment and ammunition sent by other countries, for example Albania. Last week, Britain delivered 10 metric tons of body armor, helmets and equipment. Kurdish fighters need Albanian ammunition because they have mainly Russian-made weapons.
Britain has been one of the last western countries to offer to arm the Kurds with similar decisions already taken by Italy, France, the US, Australia and some smaller countries.
Previously, Downing Street announced it would not be sending arms to Baghdad until it had formed a new government.