General Sir Richard Shirreff, former Nato deputy supreme allied commander Europe
General Sir Richard Shirreff, former Nato deputy supreme allied commander Europe, said a large number of western forces would eventually be needed to fight alongside local groups in order to recapture Raqqa, the extremist movement’s self-proclaimed capital.
He spoke out after David Cameron last week ruled out the deployment of British ground troops when he pressed the case for bombing missions over Syria, saying the proposed air attacks would be coordinated with ground attacks by some of the 70,000 local troops in Syria linked to “moderate” groups opposed to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
But yesterday Shirreff told a national newspaper such a military strategy would not defeat Daesh or recapture Raqqa.
“It’s not something you are going to achieve with 70,000 so-called Syria moderates,” he said.
“To take a city of 350,000 is going to need a massive force. Any fighting in cities soaks up troops in a massive way. It’s heavily attritional, it’s bloody and it’s a grim business.”
The United States began an air campaign against Daesh in Syria in September last year, 2014, with France and Russia both launching aerial attacks on Syria in September this year.
There was concern that the Russian air strikes, which were targeting western Syria, far from Isis strongholds, were aimed at helping Bashar al-Assad’s regime rather than weakening Daesh.
Shirreff spoke out after unease emerged yesterday among some Conservatives north of the border about Cameron’s proposals.