Former UK Chief of Staff Lord Dannatt has called for a ground invasion against Islamic State (ISIS) on Monday, claiming that the cultural and security impact of the group calls for an international armed effort to expand beyond the current airstrike campaign.
"The capture and likely destruction of the 2,000-year-old Roman colonnades at Palmyra, Syria, by Islamic State constitutes a potential cultural crime on a gigantic scale," Dannatt wrote in the Daily Mail. "These majestic ruins represent thousands of years of human civilisation and there is now surely no doubting just how great a threat IS [ISIS – ed.] poses to civilization in the region and beyond."
Dannatt continues that ISIS could spread across Europe and the Middle East, returning to the "height of Islam" and Islamic conquest in Medieval times – and further.
"Although the United States might think it enjoys the security of the Atlantic between itself and where ISIS wants to expand, it cannot forget the domestic terrorist threat," he stated. "In light of this terrifying scenario, how much longer can Britain and the US continue to show such a lack of commitment to defeating ISIS militarily?"
Dannatt insists that the airstrike campaign, codenamed Operation Inherent Resolve, has failed so far to prevent ISIS spreading.
"Military history tells us that while air strikes can change the terms of battle, they cannot bring a decision," he urges. "We have now reached a point when we must think the previously unthinkable and consider that British troops, acting as part of an international coalition, may be required to mount a ground campaign in Iraq and Syria."
He proposes an international fighting force of about 5,000 soldiers, and notes that ISIS – unlike the Taliban or other "insurgents," as he calls them – is using "conventional" military tactics not unlike a regular Army.
The force would include "a fully fledged brigade with infantry troops, attack helicopters, artillery, mortars, reconnaissance and surveillance assets," he adds, noting that a UN Security Council resolution would be necessary to facilitate such a move.
According to recent reports, ISIS has taken over roughly half of Syria.