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UK to send 75 military trainers to help moderate Syrian rebels

Published: March 27, 2015
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Source: The Guardian

Britain is to send 75 military personnel to help train moderate Syrian forces fighting on two fronts, against Islamic State and President Bashar al-Assad.

The training in small arms, infantry tactics and basic medical skills will take place in Turkey and is part of a US-led effort aimed at helping thousands of Syrian fighters over the next three years. The Syrian fighters are being screened to weed out those considered to be Islamist extremists.

The Commons voted in 2013 against direct British intervention in Syria, and theMinistry of Defence (MoD) does not regard the deployment as contravening this. Until now, the UK has only been involved in fighting against Isis in Iraq.

The move comes after stinging criticism in a recent Commons defence committee report about the limitations to British involvement in the fight against Isis, which is also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (Isil). The MPs on the committee said the UK had mounted only a small percentage of the air strikes, had only a handful of troops based in Baghdad and had no clear strategy.

Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, announcing the new training deployment, said: “Britain remains at the forefront of coalition military efforts to support the Iraqi government in their fight against Isil. This effective and closely co-ordinated activity in conjunction with Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces has largely stalled the terrorists’ advances.

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