UK to give military training to 'moderate Syria forces'

Islamic State fighters Image copyright Reuters

Britain is to provide military training to "Syrian moderate opposition forces", Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has confirmed.

Around 75 trainers and headquarters staff will help in the use of small arms, infantry tactics and medical skills.

The training will take part in Turkey as part of a US-led programme.

Mr Fallon said Islamic State (IS) could only be defeated by local forces on the ground in Syria and in Iraq.

He said that in Syria, coalition air strikes had supported the liberation of Kobane and disrupted the logistics and supply lines of IS, which he referred to as Isil [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant].

"However, defeating Isil ultimately lies with local forces and we are helping to create effective ground forces in Syria, as well as in Iraq, so they can take the fight to Isil," he went on.

The training programme is expected to start in the next few weeks.

Leading role

It is intended to train and equip thousands of screened members of opposition forces in Syria over a three-year period.

British military instructors have already provided training to Kurdish peshmerga militias fighting IS in northern Iraq.

The Defence Secretary also announced that Britain would be sending two Sentinel aircraft to the region.

These will provide wide area surveillance over Iraq of IS activity and track improvised explosive device (IED) laying activity.

The RAF planes will join the Tornados and Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft which have conducted 194 strikes over Iraq, starting on 23 March.

The UK continues to be the second largest contributor to the coalition airstrike campaign and is playing a leading role in the coalition's counter improvised explosive device (C-IED) training programme, the Ministry of Defence said.

This is in addition to the infantry and Heavy Machine Gun skills training packages the MoD has already delivered to over 1,100 members of the Iraqi Forces.

Mr Fallon added: "Britain remains at the forefront of coalition military efforts to support the Iraqi government in their fight against Isil."

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