British combat troops will not be deployed to Libya and any plans to do so in future will be debated in the House of Commons, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has promised MPs on his return from a surprise visit to the war-torn country.
Hammond issued a statement on his trip before the House on Tuesday, claiming troops would only be sent in a training capacity and only along lines agreed with the new Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA).
He said Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj, to whom he has pledged £10 million (about US$14.4 million) in funding, had unequivocally stated there was no “appetite for foreign combat troops” among Libyan people.
On the topic of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) operations in Libya, Hammond said: “We do not anticipate any requests from the GNA for ground combat forces to take on Daesh [Arabic pejorative term for IS] or any other armed groups and we have no plans to deploy troops in such a role.”
He said the UK should be positive about restoring Libya after the 2011 NATO intervention that helped topple Muammar Gaddafi.
Tory MP John Baron rejected Hammond’s statement, arguing the war had been an unmitigated disaster which led to the rise of IS.
Crispin Blunt, chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, has repeatedly sparred with the government in recent weeks over Libya.
He said Hammond is “dancing on pretty thin ground” by sending a training mission into a combat zone and asked the government to be as transparent as possible if airstrikes are required.
Hammond assured him that any decision on a new air war would be brought before the House.