Army general says UK troops should return to Iraq Calls for 'boots on ground' in a humanitarian - not military - capacity, although combat operations may be called for to protect that aid.

LONDON (AA) – A senior army general has criticized Britain over its stance on Iraq, saying in a newspaper report Tuesday that the government is “terrified” of intervention.

Speaking with the Times, Sir Richard Shirreff accused the government of being “commitment-phobic” over the troubled country.

“What we have got is this commitment-phobic government that is terrified of being seen to be putting boots on the ground at a time when they are trying to extract from everything,” he told the Times.

Britain and the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 after accusing then leader Saddam Hussein of harboring “Weapons of Mass Destruction.” With Hussein removed, and a civilian government installed, Britain removed its remaining forces in 2011 after exercises to train Iraqi soldiers. Outside of Iraq, the U.K. is also scheduled to withdraw most of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year after over a decade of war.

Shirreff is the first high-ranking military official to suggest sending troops back into Iraq. Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has said that Islamic State (IS) fighters that have presently overrun swathes of the country must be defeated, whilst conservative Member of Parliament Conor Burns has said he wants to send Special Forces into Iraq to protect Christians.

The general, however, underlined that soldiers should return in a humanitarian – not military – capacity, although it is understood that combat operations may be called for to protect that aid.

“If you are going to do anything, if you are serious about avoiding a humanitarian disaster, you have got to do it properly,” said Shirreff.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on Monday said he did not envisage a combat roll for U.K. forces at the present time while Prime Minister David Cameron has resisted calls to recall parliament to address the Iraq crisis.

However, Chris Nineham from the Stop the War Coalition said that talk of intervention was “absurd”.

Speaking with the Anadolu Agency Tuesday, he said, “We have to look at the situation in context and the current terrible crisis is a product of previous interventions… The destruction of infrastructure, civil society and the deliberate fostering of sectarian tensions has led us to this point today.”

He added: “If you do not understand the mistakes of the past, then you are doomed to repeat them.”

The crisis has been triggered after the IS – formerly known as the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant – made considerable gains in Iraq, taking over the city of Mosul, and other areas, and also parts of Syria.

Religious minorities have fled areas under IS control fearing persecution.

The U.S. has carried out air strikes on IS targets in northern Iraq, while the U.K. government has carried out airdrops for refugees trapped in mountainous regions.

© 2014, Assed Baig. All rights reserved. – The views expressed here are purely those of the author and not necessarily those of the publishers. – Newstime Africa content cannot be reproduced in any form – electronic or print – without prior consent of the Publishers. Copyright infringement will be pursued and perpetrators prosecuted.

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