LONDON (AA) – Britain’s refusal to confirm or deny its special forces are fighting on the ground in Syria makes it impossible to debate the U.K.’s role in the conflict, a leading parliamentarian has charged.
Crispin Blunt, a lawmaker and chairman of the influential House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said he was not surprised by newspaper reports that British troops were fighting Daesh on the ground in Syria and Libya but was concerned by how U.K. government policy means the issue cannot be debated.
He told BBC radio on Monday: “If you run an operation for a long time, as we have here and in Libya, eventually newspapers like The Times report it and then the defense secretary can't talk about it and we can't have a proper conversation about how it fits in a wider U.K. strategy.”
The Times reported on Monday that British special forces were stationed on the front line in southern Syria, defending a rebel unit under daily attack from Daesh. The newspaper said it was the first evidence of the troops’ “direct involvement” in Syria, rather than just training rebels in Jordan.
By tradition, Britain’s Parliament must approve any government plans to deploy troops overseas, but special forces – which perform a range of unconventional missions – are not bound by this.
The House of Commons rejected U.K. government plans to begin ground combat operations against forces loyal to Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad in 2014.
But Blunt said that rejection did not include special forces, creating an “Alice in Wonderland world” where the U.K. lacked an international strategy for defeating groups like Daesh and al-Nusra.
The U.K. Ministry of Defense refused to comment on the activities of its special forces, The Times reported.