Britain is preparing to send troops into the more dangerous parts of Iraq in support of the US military mission to train local forces battling Islamic State (IS) fighters.
The prospect of expanding the UK training mission – currently based in the relatively safe Kurdish-held area of northern Iraq – was raised at a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) chaired by David Cameron yesterday, The Times reported.
The Army is said to be ready to go ahead but is awaiting political clearance from the NSC.
The mission would involve the deployment of a specialist team of experts in countering roadside bombs – improvised explosive devices (IEDs) – to work alongside American trainers.
They would be based in the capital Baghdad but could also operate outside the city where the US is conducting training of Iraqi forces preparing to take on IS - also known as Isil.
Britain already has more than 100 personnel in the Kurdish north where they have trained 1,200 peshmerga fighters in combat infantry skills including sharp shooting, first aid, counter-IED operations and weapons maintenance.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “As part of coalition efforts against Isil, UK personnel are already designing and delivering training to the Iraqi security forces which includes counter-IED training.
“Nearly 800 UK personnel are deployed on operations in the region, helping Iraqis to strengthen and mobilise against Isil, and we will continue to keep our contribution under regular review.”