Fresh doubts have emerged over the existence of a 70,000-strong force of moderate Syrian rebels that David Csameron claimed could turn the tide against ISIS in the West’s favour
Laying out his plans to combat ISIS in Syria and Iraq in the House of Commons last week, the prime minister said the assembly of 70,000 moderate fighters was a central strand of his strategy to defeat ISIS.
Both allies and opponents of Mr Cameron have questioned the disposition, capabilities and even the existence of this alleged 70,000-strong army.
Following Cameron’s statement, Defence Select Committee Chairman Julian Lewis MP said he was “extremely surprised” by the PM’s declaration that there are “70,000 Syrian opposition fighters on the ground who do not belong to extremist groups.”
Lewis told Sky News the figure appeared “magical.”
Award winning war correspondent Robert Fisk says that Cameron has created a “phantom” anti-ISIS army which does not exist in reality.
Fisk wrote in the Independent:
There aren’t 70,000 moderate fighters in Syria – and whoever heard of a moderate with a Kalashnikov, anyway? Cameron created the phantom army of 70,000 moderate fighters in Syria to justify joining bombing operations:
“Telling the House of Commons about the 70,000 “moderate” fighters deployed in Syria was not just lying in the sense that Tony Blair lied – because Blair persuaded himself to believe in his own dishonesty – but something approaching burlesque. It was whimsy – ridiculous, comic, grotesque, ludicrous. It came close to a unique form of tragic pantomime.
At one point last week, one of Cameron’s satraps was even referring to this phantom army as “ground troops”. I doubt if there are 700 active “moderate” foot soldiers in Syria – and I am being very generous, for the figure may be nearer 70 – let alone 70,000. And the Syrian Kurds are not going to conquer Isis for us; they’re too busy trying to survive the assaults of our Turkish allies. Besides, aren’t the “moderates” supposed to be the folk who don’t carry weapons at all? Who’s ever heard before of a “moderate” with a Kalashnikov?
The Syrian regime’s army – who really are ground troops and who never worried about the “moderate” rebels because they always ran away – are the only regular force deployed in Syria. And thanks to Vladimir Putin rather than PR Dave, they’re beginning to win back territory. Yet after losing at least 60,000 soldiers – killed largely by Isis and the al-Nusra Front – the Syrian army would be hard put to fight off an assault on Damascus by Dave Cameron’s 70,000 “moderates”. If this ghost army existed, it would already have captured Damascus and hurled Bashar al-Assad from power
Yet in the Commons last week, we were supposed to believe this tomfoolery – all in the cause of launching two or three fighter bombers against Isis in Syria. It wouldn’t make us more vulnerable, Dave told us. In fact we were already vulnerable because we were bombing Isis in Iraq. Yet Dave knows – and we all know, don’t we? – that Isis will most assuredly try to commit an atrocity in Britain to revenge Dave’s latest schoolboy adventure. Then – à la Blair after 7/7 – Dave will insist that Isis are killing us because they hate our “values”. Then will come the inevitable video of a suicide killer saying he killed our innocents because Dave sent his miniature air force to bomb Isis.”