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Don’t rule out ground troops: Blair

Getty

Getty

The UK and other Western powers should be prepared to commit ground troops to fight against extremists like Islamic State, former prime minister Tony Blair says.

Air strikes alone will not be enough to defeat IS or similar groups, and while training and equipping local fighters may work, the option of sending in combat soldiers should not be ruled out, he says.

Mr Blair, whose premiership came to be defined by the Iraq War, acknowledged there was “no appetite” for ground engagement against IS but warned: “You cannot uproot this extremism unless you go to where it originates from and fight it.”

He says the struggle against Islamist extremism should be seen as an international fight rather than a series of isolated conflicts, comparing it to the fascist and communist ideologies of the past century.

In an essay on his Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s website, the former PM also stressed the importance of engaging with a wider spectrum of radical Islamism, not just the violent fringe.

He says because extremists such as IS are “fanatical” and “prepared both to kill and to die” there could be no solution that does not involve force “with a willingness to take casualties in carrying the fight through to the end”.

“This is where we get to the rub. We have to fight groups like Isis,” he said.

“There can be an abundance of diplomacy, all necessary relief of humanitarian suffering, every conceivable statement of condemnation which we can muster, but unless they’re accompanied by physical combat, we will mitigate the problem but not overcome it.”

The US and France have already launched air strikes against IS targets, and the UK has not ruled out joining the bombing campaign against the extremists, who have occupied a large area of Iraq and Syria.

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