Britain poised to send extra troops to support Iraqi forces in fight against IS


Britain is set to send extra troops to fight Islamic State (IS) whose forces in Syria and Iraq are reportedly at their lowest levels for two years.

The British troops will support Iraqi ground forces who have IS, also known as Daesh, on the "back foot" with the jihadi organisation losing territory, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said.

Coalition air strikes have helped reduce IS and Fallon said the time was right to "build on recent success".

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon
(Andrew Milligan/PA)

"Make no mistake - Iraqi forces have Daesh on the back foot and are retaking territory, hitting its finances and striking its leadership," said Fallon, who will head a meeting today in Germany of international counterparts.

"Now is the time to build on recent success and we are looking hard at what more we can offer as Iraqi combat operations intensify."

Fresh ammunition stocks will also be given to the Kurdish Peshmerga, Fallon said. It comes after fighters complained they had been left without bullets for the machine guns given to them by the UK for many months.

Around 600 fighters with IS have been killed over the past month, bringing the total deaths to around 25,000, according to Downing Street.

Syrian government troops fire at Islamic State group positions
(Alexander Kots/AP/PA)

IS has suffered major setbacks over the past months in Syria at the hands of government forces and US-backed Kurdish fighters, including the loss of the historic city of Palmyra.

The self-declared caliphate has also suffered financially from coalition strikes on the oil facilities which provide much of its income and has lost territory in Iraq to the forces of the Baghdad government.

Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokeswoman said: "We have now seen more than 25,000 Daesh fighters killed, over 600 in the last month or so. The number of Daesh fighters is estimated to be at its lowest for about two years.

"We are playing a vital role in terms of the coalition air strikes, we are the second largest contributor behind the US. We've seen the Iraqi forces managing to clear Daesh out of the town of Hit in recent weeks.

Troop's boots
(Peter Byrne/PA)

"We are working with Kurdish and other partners liberating key areas of Syria and also managing to cut off the main route between Raqqa and Mosul."

RAF jets began air strikes against IS in Iraq in September 2014, and the mission was extended to Syria in December 2015.

Fallon is travelling to Stuttgart to meet US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter as well as counterparts Jean-Yves Le Drian and Ursula von der Leyen from France and Germany, and representatives from Australia, Italy, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark and Spain.