Yesterday David Cameron told Parliament that there are ‘about 70,000 Syrian opposition fighters on the ground who do not belong to extremist groups’ who could help fight Islamic State.
The Prime Minister’s number was the result of an internal assessment made by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), backed up by serving British diplomats overseas whose jobs focus on the Syrian opposition. Such a large number struck many as political exaggeration. The chairman of the Defence Committee, Julian Lewis, said he was ‘extremely surprised’. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn may issue a formal demand for clarification. So do these fighters exist and who are they?