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Coffee House

Philip Hammond: No plans to engage in airstrikes

18 August 2014

2:52 PM

18 August 2014

2:52 PM

So Britain’s long-term fight against Isis isn’t, at the moment, going to involve this country doing any fighting. The Prime Minister this morning insisted that there would be no ‘boots on the ground’ and Philip Hammond has just told journalists that there are ‘no plans at the moment to engage in air strikes’. That latter assertion does of course mean that air strikes aren’t being ruled out, while boots on the ground are ruled out daily. Hammond said:

‘The priority is the humanitarian situation, there are huge numbers of displaced persons, there are persistent stories of atrocities being committed against people who are fleeing from the violence going on, so that has to be our number 1 priority. But we’re also clear that we face a shared threat with the Iraqi people from Isil and its particularly despicable brand of hate preaching. We have to rise to that challenge, we have to deal with it, and we will if requested provide support to the Iraqi government, but the Prime Minister has been very clear that this is not about getting dragged into a war in iraq, we will not be putting combat boots on the ground.

‘Well, there’s no call for us to deliver air strikes at the moment. The US is delivering targeted air strikes, and they’re perfectly able to do what needs to be done, so we have no plans at the moment to engage in air strikes, but we will look if we are requested to do so at providing weapons and other technical support to the Kurdish forces. I should emphasise there has been no request from the Kurds for any boots on the ground of any description, they are quite capable of doing the ground fighting by themselves, what they are looking for is material and technical support.’

While David Cameron sounded more hawkish than usual in his Sunday Telegraph article, it seems that the Prime Minister’s commitment to a fight against Isis is focused far more on intelligence, advice and aid. That shouldn’t come as a surprise given ‘military prowess’ came at the end of his list of things to deploy against Islamic extremists. But the ‘broader response’ that he called for yesterday is being narrowed down today.

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