5 Feb 2015

Is Britain doing enough to tackle Islamic State militants?

Britain needs to play a greater role in the fight in Iraq against Islamic State militants, according to a report published by MPs.

MPs on the cross-party Defence Select Committee on Thursday said they were “surprised and deeply concerned” that the UK is not doing more to tackle the threat posed by the group, also known by the Arabic name Daesh.

Committee chairman Rory Stewart 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.”

‘Stepping up air support’

Calling for a greater UK involvement, the MPs said there was no demand from the Iraqi government for combat troops “nor any question of the UK deploying such troops”.

The MPs said the RAF was making a “relatively minor commitment” to coalition air strikes, with eight Tornadoes “of which it seems only two are flying at a time”.

They suggested stepping up air support for ground operations by Iraqi and Kurdish troops once they were ready to launch major offensives, and the UK should provide extra training – including in dealing with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) – and help in reforming the Iraqi military.

‘Analytical capability’

“Such activities would require only the deployment of a few hundred personnel, the cost would be relatively modest, and it would not entail the risks inherent in deploying UK troops in combat roles,” the report said.

The MPs also recommended an increase in “analytical capability in Iraq and at home” along with greater diplomatic and defence engagement with regional players including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Mr Stewart added: “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.”