Op Shader

IS 'Closed Out' In Iraq And Northern Syria

A 10-day RAF mission was recently carried out against so-called Islamic State in northern Iraq, supported by Iraqi Security Forces.

A senior Royal Air Force officer says so-Islamic State (IS) has been "closed out" in Iraq and northern Syria.

Air Commodore Simon Strasdin, the UK Air Component Commander in the Middle East, was speaking following a 10-day mission against IS in northern Iraq, supported by Iraqi Security Forces on the ground.

"If we continue in the same vein and we are able to see the Iraqis take more and more control of their security and their stability, then the vector that we are on at the moment, I think, is exceptionally positive," he said.

"Together, we are working towards defeating the remnants of Daesh and ensuring its will is depleted," Air Cdre Strasdin continued.

Speaking about IS in Iraq and northern Syria, the RAF officer declared: "Ultimately, we're able to close this out."

However, he stated there is not "an exact timeline".

Operation Shader is the UK's contribution to the Global Coalition against Daesh, which incorporates 82 nations.

Watch: What threat does ISIS still pose?

The RAF continues to conduct regular reconnaissance missions over Iraq and Syria as part of its ongoing commitment – its first combat sortie as part of the operation was flown in September 2014.

The campaign to defeat so-called Islamic State has continued since the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces declared an end to the terror group's physical caliphate in March 2019.

"I've been really pleased to see the Iraqi air force working with their own ground forces, completely autonomous, without any coalition support at all," said Air Cdre Strasdin.

However, Professor Fawaz Gerges, Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics, told Forces News the international community must strengthen its own presence on the ground in the fight against Daesh.

Estimating a current IS force strength between 10,000 and 12,000, the expert warned a "major blow" in recent years may not be enough to end a campaign reaching as far as Africa.

While the UK and its coalition allies may foresee a conclusive halt to IS activity in Iraq, Prof Gerges believes extremists may be waiting for the right moment to show their hand.

Reliance on air capability should be reconsidered if IS extremists are to be fully eradicated, and a resurgence is to be avoided, he said.