Rome: UK Foreign Minister rules out sending troops on the ground in Libya
At an anti-Isis conference in Rome, foreign secretary says UK could provide support in other ways, such as organisation and air-gathered intelligence
The British foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, has ruled out sending combat troops to Libya to tackle the spread of Islamic State.
Speaking at a one-day meeting to discuss anti-Isis strategy in Rome on Tuesday, Hammond said the UK could provide support in other ways, primarily by providing intelligence gathered from the air, offering advice and helping with military organisation.
“We will certainly want to support the new Libyan government in any practical way we can but I don’t envisage that there will be a situation where we need or want to put combat troop boots on the ground,” he said.
“I don’t think we are likely to think that putting combat troops on the ground is a helpful contribution. There are plenty of armed men in Libya. What they need is organisation, command and control, air-gathered intelligence, strategic organisation.”
The Italian government is taking the lead in drawing up a plan to support a new Libyan government and 23 countries took part in the Rome meeting.
One option is to send a 6,000-strong Italian-led force to help with training and organisation of a new Libyan army. Rome has asked the UK to provide up to 1,000 troops, though only in a training and advisory role.
But discussions are still at an early stage and such an intervention is only one of more than a dozen options under consideration. The UK has sent a small team to Libya to examine the feasibility of deploying such a force.
If the UK was just to send troops in a training and advisory role, they would need combat troops to protect them. Any international force would be a magnet forjihadi groups in Libya.
The UK has about 150 troops operating on the ground in Iraq, both in Baghdad and Kurdistan, primarily providing training and advice.