Downing Street has admitted that the 70,000 “moderate” fighters in Syria prepared to join the UK and its allies in attacking Islamic State are made up of a number of “disparate” groups.
As David Cameron insisted that airstrikes against Isis targets would help moves towards a political settlement in Syria by attacking “everyone’s enemy”, No 10 acknowledged it would be difficult to coordinate the forces.
Downing Street clarified the position after the Times (paywall) and the Sun reported that military officials had warned No 10 against claiming that the 70,000 “moderate” fighters were prepared to join the battle against Isis. The estimate was approved by the joint intelligence committee.
The two newspapers reported that officials in the Ministry of Defence were concerned that the claim would be a hostage to fortune and would revive memories of the 45 minutes claim in the Downing Street dossier in September 2002 that preceded the Iraq war. The 2002 dossier was also approved by the JIC.
Labour said the warnings from military officials confirmed that the 70,000 claim had collapsed. “The 70,000 figure has completely fallen apart,” one Labour source said. “Almost nobody believes it.”
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