The Defence Secretary has announced that the UK will provide military training to Syrian moderate opposition forces.As part of a wider package to ensure a robust international response to the threat of violent extremism in the Middle East, the UK will send around 75 military trainers and headquarter staff to provide training in areas such as the use of small arms, infantry tactics and medical skills.
Expected to start in the coming weeks, the US-led programme will train and equip thousands of screened members of the opposition over the next three years to help them defend Syrian communities against ISIL’s brutal attacks before leading offensives themselves.
Alongside the substantial training contribution, the UK will also provide headquarter staff to coordinate and develop the programme. The training will take place in Turkey and in other countries in the region that are members of the anti-ISIL coalition.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
Britain remains at the forefront of coalition military efforts to support the Iraqi government in their fight against ISIL. This effective and closely coordinated activity in conjunction with Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces has largely stalled the terrorists’ advances.
But ISIL must be defeated in both Iraq and Syria. In Syria, coalition airstrikes have supported the liberation of Kobane and have disrupted ISIL’s logistics and supply lines. 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.
As one of the few nations able to offer highly advanced Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance capabilities the UK has already deployed a number of assets to match coalition requirements. The Defence Secretary also announced today that the UK will be sending two Sentinel aircraft to the region to provide wide area surveillance over Iraq of ISIL activity and to track IED laying activity. These aircraft will join our Tornados and Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft which have conducted 194 strikes over Iraq as of 23 March and have continued to gather vital intelligence alongside Rivet Joint.
The UK continues to be the second largest contributor to the coalition airstrike campaign and is playing a leading role the coalition’s counter improvised explosive device (C-IED) training programme as well as the extensive infantry and Heavy Machine Gun skills training packages which together have been delivered to over 1100 members of the Iraqi Forces.