LONDON (AP) — Britain has moved past a strictly humanitarian mission in Iraq — and the country’s leader warned Monday that the effort won’t be over any time soon.
Prime Minister David Cameron said the British government has “fully worked through” its strategy and stressed troops would not get involved in another war. But he argued limited action is needed to prevent violence from being exported back to Britain’s streets.
“We are not going to be putting boots on the ground,” Cameron told the BBC. “We are not going to be sending in the British Army.”
Cameron’s remarks followed Defense Secretary Michael Fallon’s comments to Royal Air Force service members in Cyprus suggesting that reconnaissance actions in Iraq are moving beyond easing the plight of Yazidis and other minority groups fleeing Islamic militants. He predicted such actions would go on for months.
With critics warning of mission creep, Britain’s opposition Labour Party and Church of England leaders have accused the government of having no “coherent or comprehensive approach” to fighting the extremists or to protecting Christians from persecution.
Cameron repeated the government’s position that Britain was willing to arm the Kurdish Peshmerga forces — although they haven’t yet made a request. But he pledged to put all the pressure possible because of fears that British Islamic jihadis could eventually come back home.
“We should use all the assets that we have — our diplomacy, our political relationships, our aid, the military prowess, the expertise that we have to help others — we should use these things as part of a strategy to put pressure on Islamic State and make sure this terrorist organization is properly addressed and it cannot cause mayhem on our own streets,” he said.