Britain to send 125 more military trainers to Iraq

Reuters/Azad Lashkari
British Prime Minister David Cameron announced Sunday that the UK will expand its military training mission in Iraq to help train the Iraqi army deal with threats from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

Cameron was speaking at the summit of the G7 group of industrialized nations in Germany on Sunday. This latest commitment will bring the number of British personnel engaged in the fight against IS in Iraq and Syria up to about 900.

“We’re already the second largest contributor in terms of air strikes in Iraq, and support for the Syrian opposition,” Cameron told reporters. “But I’m announcing today that we’re increasing our training effort in Iraq. It’s a particular request the Abadi government has made, it’s a particular thing we’ve been working with the Americans on.”

The trainers will be deployed over a few locations across Iraq not currently held by IS, including Taji, Besmaya, and Al Asad. A hundred of the soldiers will actually be involved with IED training, with the remaining 25 teaching first aid, equipment maintenance, and logistics.

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The UK government announced in March that it was sending 60 troops to train Kurdish forces fighting IS. More than 1,000 Kurdish troops have already been trained.

“This counter-IED training will give Iraqi forces a vital capability in taking the fight to ISIL and is another example of our commitment to the campaign against ISIL. Along with our airstrikes, Britain is making a major contribution to training Iraqi forces to help them defend their country,” said Michael Fallon, the Defense Secretary at the time.

According to a spokesman for the Prime Minister’s office, Islamic State routinely plants large numbers of IEDs when on the retreat, making it dangerous for local people to move back into their homes.

Cameron and US President Barack Obama were also expected to discuss what else the UK can do to help train the so-called moderate Syrian opposition in places where it is safe to do so, such as Turkey.

The Prime Minister has come under pressure from the US to keep British defense spending at 2 percent of GDP, something David Cameron is reluctant to guarantee. Critics both at home and abroad have warned that the latest round of budget cuts will make it difficult for the UK to meet its NATO targets.