Britain should do more to battle Islamic State, Parliament panel says

British lawmakers chide government in report for not playing a greater role in campaign against Islamic State

Britain should be doing more to help fight the Islamic State militant group, according to a report issued Thursday by lawmakers.

Iraqi forces must be offered greater support, and Britain needs to help devise a strategy to defeat Islamic extremists and work out a political solution, Parliament’s Defense Select Committee said.

The report said that the country has the necessary expertise and resources but that committee members were shocked by the “inability or unwillingness” of service chiefs to articulate Britain’s strategic plan in Iraq.

“There was a lack of clarity over who owns a policy — and indeed whether such a policy exists,” said Rory Stewart, the committee's chairman.

Britain has so far limited its role in the air campaign to Iraq, conducting no airstrikes in Syria.

The lawmakers found that Britain had carried out only 6% of the airstrikes against Islamic State and that there are only three British military personnel outside the Kurdish regions of Iraq, compared with 400 from Australia, 280 from Italy and 300 from Spain.

Furthermore, there are no British personnel on the ground who are deeply knowledgeable about the political and social makeup of Iraq, the report said.

The report stressed that it is not calling for combat troops to be deployed in Iraq, but found the level of British involvement in helping to combat the Islamic State “strikingly modest.”

The report also noted that Britain's non-involvement in the air campaign over Syria had to be addressed.

"There is clearly an issue ... about the U.K. continuing to strike only in Iraq when Daesh is able to take sanctuary on the Syrian side of the border, and when our coalition partners are conducting strikes in both Syria and Iraq," the report said, referring to Islamic State by its acronym in Arabic.

Members of the committee visited Iraq in December, where they met with British soldiers as well as Iraqi government ministers and tribal sheiks to get a detailed sense of what the policies are in Iraq and whether they are working.

"We must clearly acknowledge the previous failures in Iraq, and reform our approach. But that does not mean lurching to doing nothing,” Stewart said.

“There are dozens of things the U.K. could be doing, without deploying combat troops, to work with coalition partners to help address one of the most extreme threats that we have faced in the last 20 years."

Boyle is a special correspondent.

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