The UK Ministry of Defence has rejected claims that it is only making a “strikingly modest” contribution to the multinational coalition effort against Islamic State militants in Iraq, insisting its involvement has been only second to the USA’s over the course of the campaign.
This ministry was responding to a UK Defence Select Committee report released in February that criticised the government for conducting just 6% of the air strikes carried out against IS.
“The committee… stated that the UK has only conducted 6% of air strikes – this is inaccurate,” says Michael Fallon, the UK’s defence minister, in the MoD’s response issued on 25 March. “It is based on figures for Iraq and Syria and we only have parliamentary permission to conduct strikes over Iraq.”
He adds that the Royal Air Force has played a “major role” that has seen it carry out 194 air strikes in Iraq to date, which is lower only than the USA’s total in the mission.
Rory Stewart, chairman of the defence select committee, said in its February report that this is one of the “most extreme threats” facing civilisation in some 20 years, and that the UK’s role in combating it is “strikingly modest".
“The report recognises the UK is right to respond actively to the threat posed by ISIL, but we reject the committee’s conclusion that we are making a ‘strikingly modest’ contribution,” Fallon responds.
He says the MoD has contributed where its air assets can have the most impact, which has included supporting Iraqi forces from the air, carrying out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, and providing air-to-air refuelling.
“The RAF has contributed assets that few coalition partners can match and the USA and other partners have acknowledged the impact these are having on the campaign,” he notes.
The MoD says it has a clear strategy in its campaign: “In contrast with the committee view that the UK lacks a clear strategy for the fight against ISIL, the government has been clear that the first priority is to minimise the threat to UK security and interests in the Middle East by pursuing three objectives.”
These include disrupting threats to the UK; working as part of an international coalition to defeat IS and “discredit its violent ideology”; and reducing the impact of the group and other militant organisations like it.
The RAF has been contributing aircraft and personnel to the effort since parliament authorised British air strikes in September. It has offered its Panavia Tornado GR4s and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-9 Reapers in offensive roles, supported by the Airbus A330 Voyager air-to-air tanker and the Boeing E-3D Sentry airborne early warning and control aircraft.