UK denies plan to send troops to support new Libyan government

The government has said it has no plans to deploy British troops to provide security for Libya’s newly-appointed national unity government.


The denial came in response to a letter to the foreign secretary from Crispin Blunt MP, the chairman of the Commons foreign affairs select committee, seeking a statement to parliament in advance of any military action.


Blunt had argued that the first formal move of a new Libyan government was likely to be to ask Britain and its allies to conduct airstrikes against Islamic State targets in the country, according to Blunt.


Isis, with strongholds in Syria and Iraq, has expanded its presence in Libya, taking over the town of Sirte and other areas, taking advantage of the absence of a government and of increasing unrest.


Blunt said that the reported deployment of UK troops as part of an Italian-led force to Libya would be a matter for the Commons and Hammond should make a statement before defence secretary Michael Fallon agreed to such a deployment.


Fallon on Tuesday held a telephone conference with the defence ministers of Italy, France, Spain and Germany about the combined force.


The 5,000-strong force – though Blunt puts it at 6,000 – would be sent to train and advise the new Libyan army. Although all five countries insist the role would not be a combat one, there is always a risk of mission creep. The Libyan government might need to be bolstered in the event of an attack or the international force might be targeted by Isis.


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