The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed plans to contribute 75 soldiers to a US-led mission to train moderate Syrian opposition forces to fight Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in the near future.
British military trainers will provide training in areas such as the use of small arms, infantry tactics and medical skills as part of a wider package to ensure a robust international response to the threat of violent extremism in the Middle East.
Headquarter staff will also be provided to coordinate and develop the training programme, which will take place in Turkey and in other countries in the region that are members of the anti-ISIL coalition.
UK 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.
"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."
The US-led programme aims to train and equip thousands of screened members of the opposition over the next three years, to enable them to protect Syrian communities against ISIL attacks, and then launch an offensive against the militants.
Since the start of the ISIL offensive in Iraq in 2014, Britain has provided advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities and a number of assets to match coalition requirements.
The UK Royal Air Force’s Tornados and Reaper remotely piloted aircraft, which have conducted 194 strikes over Iraq as of 23 March, continue to gather vital intelligence alongside Rivet Joint aircraft. The active aircraft will be supplemented by two Sentinels in the near future.
Britain already plays a leading role in the coalition’s counter improvised explosive device training programme as well as the extensive infantry and heavy machine gun skills training packages that have been delivered to more than 1,100 members of the Iraqi military.
Image: Britain is set to deploy two Sentinel aircraft to provide wide area surveillance of ISIL activity over Iraq. Photo: copyright UK Ministry of Defence/Crown.