British troops train Iraqi and Kurdish fighters to beat Islamic State

Iraqi and Kurdish fighters being trained by UK forces, including an expert from Blackpool, will beat Islamic State, a high ranking British Army officer has said.
Members of the Zervani during a medical training exercise at Tiger Town on the outskirts of Erbil, IraqMembers of the Zervani during a medical training exercise at Tiger Town on the outskirts of Erbil, Iraq
Members of the Zervani during a medical training exercise at Tiger Town on the outskirts of Erbil, Iraq

As part of the UK's role in the 68-member Global Coalition committed to defeating the terror group, more than 500 British soldiers are currently deployed in locations across Iraq.

Lieutenant Colonel Rob Singleton Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion of The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment is based in Erbil in the Kurdish region at UK camp, JOB Zorbash.

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Over the past few months, the 40-year-old dad-of-two said 2 LANCS have been training Iraqi and Kurdish security forces in medical techniques, infantry skills and counter Improvised Explosive Device (IED) measures.

"In Mosul at the moment they are making real progress, and whilst we are not fighting we have got an indirect approach," he told the Press Association.

"It is our job to train the Iraqis and the Kurds so that they are able to do their job in Mosul - and it appears to me that they are doing it really well, they are very brave, and they have been fighting for a while now.

"I think that they are absolutely going to beat Daesh (another term for Islamic State) and it is to their credit."

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Lt Col Singleton said the Kurds and Iraqis are confident the fight against IS is one they can win, and that it is the job of his battalion to make sure they have the right skill set to do it.

"I think my training teams are genuinely first class and so they are held in really high regard by both the coalition and Kurdish and Iraqi security forces," he said.

"When they deliver those periods of instruction, it is the best it gets and the Iraqis and Kurds know that and they know that it will keep them safe in Mosul and beyond."

An unfinished and abandoned development on the outskirts of Erbil called Tiger Town, is now being used by the Peshmerga, British and coalition forces for training purposes.

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The half-built structures provide a "first-class training environment" Lt Col Singleton said, with the facilities allowing training to take place in a realistic environment as they practice urban warfare.

As the Kurds fight IS on front lines across the region, Lance Corporal Nicquita Chamberlain a combat medical technician with 2 LANCS, said the main injuries Peshmerga forces have been sustaining are from gunshot wounds and IED's.

The 26-year-old from Blackpool said she has been teaching them how to stop the bleeding and save lives when it comes to "catastrophic haemorrhages, gunshot wounds, chest injuries".

As well as training them on how to use conventional tourniquets, she has also been instructing them on how to make them out of improvised medical kit, such as rope, rags, plastic wrappers and sticks.

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Providing skills on how to deal with a severe casualty by using "nothing medical at all", she said the Peshmerga realise how important medical training is.

And that the biggest thing she has learned on the tour is "how lucky" British troops are.

"In our infantry they always have medics, they have me with them," the 26-year-old said.

"These guys don't have a medic, so, not only are we lucky to have specialists in each field, but we also have all the kit we want.

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"I have endless amounts of tourniquets and fluids, they have nothing. So I have taken from that how lucky we are, and how appreciative they are of us showing them little things like this."

Lieutenant Tommy Flight of the Corps of Royal Engineers has been leading a team which carries out training in counter IED techniques.

"That has two component parts, the first is the search element where we are training the forces how to find devices that Daesh would use and are using up in places like Mosul and Kirkuk," Lt Flight said.

"Then we are doing the EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) side of things, which is how to deal with that said device once they have found it in the safest manner possible."

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The 31-year-old from Kent said the Kurdish forces they have been training have come to them with a "whole range" of information on devices they discover.

Lt Flight said working with the Kurds has been "fantastic" and his biggest takeaway from the tour is the "uplift in capability" his team have seen.

"Taking them from almost rudimentary at times, to a point where you know you are happy for them to go out onto the front line and that they will be safe because of what you have taught them.

"It is quite rewarding to know that maybe somewhere along the lines you have saved their lives or what you have taught them has saved someone else's life."

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Praising the "leading role" Britain is playing in the coalition's efforts to train Iraqi and Peshmerga forces, Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said the skills being provided are "vital".

"Since 2014 we've helped train over 44,000 of these forces in countering Daesh booby traps, infantry skills, and bridge building," he said.

"These skills are proving vital in the current operation to liberate western Mosul and push Daesh out of their last major stronghold in Iraq."

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