The US has called for cooperation and support from British troops in defeating IS in Raqqa
It is the first request by Washington since Prime Minister Theresa May and President Trump reaffirmed the “special relationship” between both countries on Friday.
Pentagon sources yesterday confirmed that Mrs May has been invited to redeploy a battalion-sized formation as part of a new 4,000-strong strike brigade.
The plan would see the creation of a new Forward Air Refuelling Base, backed by Apache attack helicopters and armour, at the site of a disused Syrian Air Force base to the west of the city.
The UK is to be asked to support the final move against IS in Syria
Once established the base will become vital in supplying fuel. It will also act as a springboard for a final offensive by Syrian Democratic Forces against the city.
President Trump pledged to eradicate IS “within 90 days” of taking office, and this latest operation is seen as an essential component.
It is understood the plans were discussed with President Trump during a security meeting in the Oval Office, to which Mrs May brought military adviser Colonel John Clark.
Donald Trump pledged to destroy IS within his first 90 days of taking office
British military sources in Washington have been informed that US commanders want the UK to deploy as many as 600 troops to help to consolidate and potentially defend the base from IS counter attacks.
Though technically Mrs May does not need parliamentary consent to deploy troops for non-combative duties, plans to send elements of 3 Para’s high readiness Airborne Task Force – where senior officers have been venting their frustrating at their lack of deployment – have been discounted.
Instead Britain will draw from its Special Forces group, sending some 600 members of frontline Special Forces regiments as well as electronic warfare teams, bomb disposal experts and a large force protection unit.
The fight against ISIS
Fri, November 18, 2016
The battle against ISIS militants (also abbreviated as Daesh, ISIL, IS and Islamic State) continues in the Middle East.
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Forces battle against ISIS
These will be possibly drawn from elements of the UK’s rapid reaction force at 16 Air Assault Brigade.
Even though Iraq forces are expected to take until April to liberate Mosul, military planners say SAS elements, which were crucial in preparing the ground with operations aimed at targeting key IS commanders and sabotaging supply depots, can now be redeployed to Syria.
Last night British military sources emphasised there were no plans to use troops during the assault on Raqqa itself, which would be led by a majority Arab force.
Arab forces will lead the assault on Raqqa itself, with British forces in a supporting role
However, the joint US/UK Special Forces group will spend the next few weeks mounting preliminary attacks on the city.
A senior officer said yesterday: “We have been briefed that the UK is to be asked to support the final move against IS in Syria and that this was discussed with the Prime Minister.
“The Defence Secretary will make the final recommendation to the Prime Minister.
IS have subjected the population of Raqqa to mass executions and brutal subjugation since 2013
“We currently have more than 800 troops operating in our Special Forces group.
“While this includes a limited number of SAS soldiers it also includes hundreds of specialists who all operate under the director of Special Forces.”
Raqqa was captured by IS forces in 2013. Its 90,000-strong population has endured mass executions of Alawite and Christian citizens.