MPs: UK should do more in IS fight

Published: Thursday 5th February 2015 by The News Editor

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The United Kingdom can and should be playing a greater role in the fight against Islamic State (IS), according to a group of MPs.

A report by the Defence Select Committee found that Britain has the expertise and resources to give more support to Iraqi forces and encourage a political solution.

The MPs were shocked that service chiefs did not provide a clear statement of the UK’s objectives in Iraq when they gave evidence to the committee.

It also emerged that the UK has so far conducted only 6% of the air strikes against IS – also known as Daesh, Isis and Isil.

Tory MP Rory Stewart, chairman of the committee, said: ” The nightmare of a jihadist state establishing across Syria and Iraq has finally been realised.

“Daesh controls territory equivalent to the size of the UK, has contributed to the displacement of millions, destabilising and threatening neighbouring states, and providing safe-haven to an estimated 20,000 foreign fighters, many dedicated to an international terrorist campaign.

“Yet, the role that the UK is playing in combating it, is strikingly modest.”

The MPs discovered on a vi sit to Iraq in December that there were only three UK military personnel outside the Kurdish regions of the country, compared with 400 Australians, 280 Italians and 300 Spanish.

Despite Britain’s long involvement in Iraq, there were no UK personnel on the ground with deep expertise in the tribes or politics of Iraq.

The committee’s report recommends that the UK invests heavily in staff to develop a better understanding of the situation on the ground and to help develop a realistic coalition plan for dealing with IS.

It argues that Britain should be prepared to provide an increased level of air support when the Iraqi security forces and the Peshmerga demonstrate they are ready for major offensives against the extremists.

Mr Stewart said: ” These are all areas in which the UK can assist, bringing in the best of UK international development expertise, intelligence, Special Forces, and diplomacy; all with an aim of decreasing the probability of an ongoing civil war, and increasing the chances of a political settlement, however distant these objectives may be.”

He went on: ” We must clearly acknowledge the previous failures in Iraq, and reform our approach. But that does not mean lurching to doing nothing. The UK should find a way of engaging with Iraq which is moderate, pragmatic, but energetic.

“There are dozens of things the UK could be doing, without deploying combat troops, to work with coalition partners to help address one of the most extreme threats that we have faced in the last 20 years.”

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told the committee yesterday that progress is being made in the fight against IS.

He said: ”There has been progress. There is no doubt that the advance of Isil has been halted and in some areas – just to the west and north of Baghdad and just along the front line of the Kurdish forces – there is some evidence now that Isil is beginning to suffer reverses, and obviously that is something we can measure.

”I can measure it not least in seeing where the strikes are that I am being asked to authorise. Where those start to fall you can see significant progress westward, which is important.”

Published: Thursday 5th February 2015 by The News Editor

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