Is Tony Blair right that we shouldn’t rule out deploying ground troops against Islamic State?

Tony Blair has given more advice on resolving the current crisis in the Middle East

Robin Simcox, a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, says Yes.

Since the US and the UK have only recently withdrawn combat troops from Iraq, redeployment is politically challenging. However, Tony Blair is right to say that it may be necessary.

US President Barack Obama says he intends to “destroy” IS. But his strategy – airstrikes, military support to Kurdish and Iraqi armies, and political reconciliation – will not get the job done. The most effective combat forces that can be brought to bear are Western-led special forces embedded in the Iraqi Army, sympathetic Sunni tribal fighters and Kurdish forces. Unfortunately, Obama has explicitly ruled out ground troops.

Informing the enemy what you are unwilling to do and the lengths you will not go to is a mistake. Ground troops or special forces are higher-risk strategies, since it could lead to a further loss of Western lives. However, our political leaders need to make a decision. Are we just trying to fight the most politically convenient war possible, or are we fighting to win?

Michael Stephens, deputy director of RUSI Qatar, says No.

One of Tony Blair’s biggest problems is that he doesn’t spend much time in the places he pontificates about.

Almost nobody I have spoken to engaged in fighting Islamic State (IS) wants the West to do the fighting for them. They appreciate the weapons and military coordination, but many communities terrorised by the radical group want to defeat IS their own way. While the West can provide the plaster cast around which we can protect fighters on the ground, we cannot heal the wound – nor should we.

It is true that you cannot defeat IS from the air alone, but you also cannot defeat them by reoccupying lands nobody wants you in. Ultimately, there must be a regional solution to regional problems, with some western support to reinforce the reconstruction and rehabilitation of areas occupied and governed by IS.

Getting the Gulf States and Turkey to pull their weight and contribute in this regard would go some way to solving the issue in the long run.

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