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Libyan Newswire

Revelations about U.K. special forces in Syria require debate on U.K. role: MPs

SyriaRevelations about U.K. special forces in Syria require debate on U.K. role: MPs

Published 7 June 2016

British MPs say that the Ministry of Defense’s refusal to comment on ground operations by Special Forces in Syria means it is not possible to hold an informed debate about U.K. role in Syria. The Times reported that elite U.K. soldiers had crossed into southern Syria to support opposition forces fighting ISIS militants close to the border with Jordan.

Crispin Blunt, the chairman of the House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Committee, has said he was not concerned or surprised by news reports that British Special Forces are involved in military operations in Syria.

The Times reported hat elite U.K. soldiers had crossed into southern Syria to support opposition forces fighting ISIS militants close to the border with Jordan.

First Lt Mahmoud al-Saleh of the New Syrian Army told the Times that British troops had provided logistical help to rebuild defenses at a base in a village called al-Tanf after a suicide attack, which killed eleven rebels.

He told the paper: “They helped us with logistics, like building defenses to make the bunkers safe.”

Middle East Eye reports that Blunt, a former army officer, said the convention of not acknowledging such apparent Special Forces operations meant there could not be a proper debate Britain’s role in the war in Syria.

He was asked by BBC Radio 4’s Today program whether he was troubled by such operations after the House of Commons vote against military involvement in Syria. He responded: “I’m not particularly concerned and I’m not at all surprised …

“This appears to a small set of operatives who deserted from Assad’s army some time ago, and got trained up by the Americans and ourselves.”

He added: “We are in this Alice in Wonderland world where parliament has approved a motion saying: ‘notes the government will not deploy U.K. troops in ground combat operations’. It doesn’t say: ‘brackets not special forces’. But the convention is that it is ‘brackets not special forces’. We don’t comment on special forces operations. And if you run an operation for a long time as we have here, and in Libya, eventually newspapers like the Times report it.”

In March, Blunt told the Guardian that he was concerned parliament had been left in the dark about British military involvement in Libya after a confidential briefing given to U.S. congressional leaders revealed SAS forces had been deployed in Libya since the beginning of the year.

MEE notes that in December, MPs vote by 397 to 223 to back David Cameron’s plan to extend airstrikes against ISIS from Iraq into Syria.

The December vote came more than two years after MPs rejected the prime minister’s attempt to gain support for military British military intervention in Syria.

The government fell short by thirteen votes – historians say it was the first such reverse on foreign policy for at least 150 years – and Blunt was one of the Tory MPs who voted against the government, although he did support authorizing British air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria.

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