Britain will send more trainers to Iraq to help the country in its battle against the Islamic State jihadist group, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said on Wednesday.
Britain is carrying out air strikes against IS jihadists who have seized swathes of Iraq as part of a US-led campaign to help push the group back, and is already training Kurdish troops.
“We will be stepping up our training effort. We’re talking to our coalition partners about how the… additional training is going to be provided, in training centres in and around Baghdad,” Fallon told journalists in the Iraqi capital.
He said the training would be for battalions able to leave the front lines, but did not specify if it would involve Iraqi soldiers, police or both.
The exact number of trainers that will be sent has not yet been decided, he said.
“One particular area of expertise we have is in counter-IED (improvised explosive devices). We’ve learnt from Afghanistan in dealing with roadside bombs and car bombs and we have some specialist knowledge to contribute,” he said.
London already has a “small number of people” in Baghdad, and “will be looking now to see how we can strengthen that, the liason work that we’re doing in the ministries and the security agencies here,” Fallon said.
The defence ministry announced last month that a “small, specialist team” of soldiers was providing training to Kurdish forces in the country’s autonomous north.
Prime Minister David Cameron has ruled out sending combat troops back into Iraq, wary of committing to a new conflict six months from a general election.
Britain was one of the main members of the US-led “coalition of the willing” that invaded Iraq in 2003 and overthrew dictator Saddam Hussein.
The last British forces withdrew from Iraq in 2011.
Britain has not participated in similar air strikes by the coalition against IS in Syria, where the jihadist group has also seized significant territory.