UK 'should play greater role' in fight against Islamic State

MPs on the defence select committee urge UK to step up fight against Islamic State extremists

Royal Air Force Tornado aircraft
(Image credit: Gavin Fogg/AFP/Getty )

The UK "can and should be playing a greater role" in the fight against Islamic State militants, a group of MPs have said.

In a report published today, the defence select committee urged Prime Minister David Cameron to expand the UK's contribution to the US-led air campaign once the Iraqi security forces were better trained and organised. However, it emphasised that it was not in favour of deploying combat forces

The UK has conducted only six per cent of all air strikes against the terrorist group and sent just a handful of military trainers into Iraq in what MPs called a "strikingly modest" response.

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Eight RAF Tornado fast jets, which are only authorised to drop bombs in Iraq not Syria, have conducted less than one air strike a day since they deployed in September, said the committee.

It also found that, outside the Kurdish regions of the country, there were only three UK military personnel, compared with 400 Australians, 280 Italians and 300 Spanish.

"We are surprised and deeply concerned that the UK is not doing more," the MPs said in their report. "There is no demand from the Iraqi government for combat troops; nor any question of the UK deploying troops. But there is far more that the UK could do without engaging in direct combat operations."

The committee accused officials, ministers and officers of failing to set out a clear military strategy and said further failure to engage more closely in the crisis "would raise significant questions about the UK's ambitions and global role".

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said that progress was being made against IS, with evidence that the extremists are beginning to "suffer reverses", reports the Daily Telegraph.

"The strategy is to ensure that [IS] is degraded and defeated and to assist the legitimate government of Iraq and the authorities in the Kurdish area to halt the advance of [IS] and ensure it is driven from Iraq," he said.

"That is the overall strategy. For the United Kingdom, of course, that is designed to lessen the very direct threat to us here."

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