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UK to increase military force in Syria

Britain is planning to send more soldiers to Syria to support the fight against ISIS, according to a US official.

The UK has never confirmed the number of Special Forces personnel it has operating in Syria and Iraq, but it is thought to consist of 850 personnel. Both the UK and France are reported to be prepared to increase their commitment by 10-15 per cent each, according to a US official quoted in Foreign Policy, which described the development as “a major victory … for Donald Trump’s national security team” because few other countries had been willing to help out. The article says the additional French and British forces will be sent to Syria to make up for the planned withdrawal of US forces.

Earlier this week Prime Minister Theresa May praised “the brave men and women” who had been involved in the fight against ISIS, adding that they had “helped destroy the territorial caliphate of Daesh, and continue the fight against the evil it stands for”.

The Royal Air Force has conducted more than 1,700 airstrikes and thousands of sorties providing approximately a quarter of the intelligence and surveillance operation that is integral to the international campaign against ISIS. In late April it was reported that two UK Typhoon aircraft bombed six cave entrances 40 miles north-east of Tikrit, from where it was believed some ISIS members were holding out.

In January, US President Donald Trump announced his plan to withdraw all US ground forces from Syria, approximately 2,000 – 2,500 troops, which led to the resignation of Defence Secretary James Mattis and Brett McGurk, the US envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS. A month later Trump announced that about 400 personnel would stay in Syria.

On Monday Germany was reported to have rejected a similar request from Washington to increase their military contribution in Syria, saying it was only prepared to offer “non-combat assistance”. Italy is reportedly considering whether to join Britain and France with an additional deployment to Syria.