A SENIOR military figure has warned UK air strikes on Syria will not defeat Daesh and could be the first step towards Britain being involved in a “bloody” and protracted war.

General Sir Richard Shirreff, former Nato deputy supreme allied commander Europe, said a large number of western forces would eventually be needed to fight alongside local groups in order to recapture Raqqa, the extremist movement’s self-proclaimed capital. He spoke out after David Cameron last week ruled out the deployment of British ground troops when he pressed the case for bombing missions over Syria, saying the proposed air attacks would be coordinated with ground attacks by some of the 70,000 local troops in Syria linked to “moderate” groups opposed to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

But yesterday Shirreff told a national newspaper such a military strategy would not defeat Daesh or recapture Raqqa.

“It’s not something you are going to achieve with 70,000 so-called Syria moderates,” he said.

“To take a city of 350,000 is going to need a massive force. Any fighting in cities soaks up troops in a massive way. It’s heavily attritional, it’s bloody and it’s a grim business.”

The United States began an air campaign against Daesh in Syria in September last year, 2014, with France and Russia both launching aerial attacks on Syria in September this year.

There was concern that the Russian air strikes, which were targeting western Syria, far from Isis strongholds, were aimed at helping Bashar al-Assad’s regime rather than weakening Daesh.

Shirreff spoke out after unease emerged yesterday among some Conservatives north of the border about Cameron’s proposals.

Ted Brocklebank, the former Tory MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, told the National: “My view is not the same as David Cameron’s. I’m not sure the case has been made for air strikes.

“While mindful of the dreadful atrocity in Paris, I’m not sure that adding a few more RAF Tornados over the already-crowded airspace over Syria is really the best way of showing solidarity with the French.”

He added: “Having watched what happened in Libya and Iraq, I don’t believe the case has been made.

“I think Britain should be very wary of getting involved in another ground war following on from Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere.”

Alex Johnstone, the Tory MSP for North East Scotland, said that he supported the case for air strikes.

“My view is that international action against Daesh is central, that the work that is being done by the United States, France and Russia is part of the action we need to take and that Britain needs to be a bigger player in the diplomatic efforts to bring the conflict to an end. To achieve that, we must be prepared to do what we committed to do the days after the Paris attacks and that is to stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies — and that means being prepared to be involved in the military action they are taking.” He added: “The skies are crowded over Syria as we speak but it is our willingness to participate that is key and that is why it is essential that the Government wins this vote.”

Last week, former foreign secretary William Hague claimed Britain shouldn’t rule out sending ground troops to Syria to defeat Daesh.

Lord Hague, who was handed a seat in the House of Lords after stepping down as an MP at May’s General Election, used a newspaper article to abandon his support for Britain’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The Conservative peer voted for the Iraq War and had defended the overthrow of Saddam Hussein as recently as last year.

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