Cyprus

Outgoing Akrotiri Commander: 'More To Do' In IS Fight After Mission's 'Immense' Success

RAF Akrotiri's departing station commander has praised the progress made in Operation Shader, but says "there is clearly more to do".

RAF Akrotiri's departing station commander has praised the progress made in the fight against so-called Islamic State, but says "there is clearly more to do".

Group Captain Christopher Snaith is leaving his role at the Cyprus base after nearly two years and has been reflecting on his time in post.

He says there has been a "complete change" in how Operation Shader, the UK's contribution to the US-led mission against IS, has been fought since it began.

The UK is the second largest contributor behind the US to the fight against Daesh, with jets flying missions from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

Gp Capt Snaith himself flew as a pilot on the mission and says he has seen progress since then.

"I saw Shader from the cockpit in [2014] into [2015] and you see a complete change," he said.

"When I was flying it and then when we started, it was very much a fight against ISIS.

"Just as the Tornado left in January [2019] we'd almost defeated the geographic caliphate - so they didn't really hold any land, which is an immense achievement.

"Now we're into a slightly different phase.

"We’ve managed to curtail what ISIS... really stood for, and now we’re into a more policing sort of position, so we’ve come a long way in that campaign," he said.

“There’s clearly more to do, which is why 903 and the [Operation] Shader team is still here, but we’ve come a long way which is really heartening,” he said.

RAF Akrotiri is the base for Operation Shader - the UK's contribution to the fight against so-called Islamic State (Picture: PA).

Gp Capt Snaith also noted numerous highlights from his time as station commander at Akrotiri, including the base’s response to coronavirus.

He said he is proud of how people handled the pandemic, stating that everybody in British Forces Cyprus "reacted really well" to battle COVID-19. 

“We are three months down the line and we’re now coming out of lockdown, as opposed to a lot of places in the world who are still... in a pretty nasty place and we’re not, and that's testament to everybody on camp," he said.

Gp Capt Snaith also acknowledged singular highlights of his tour, including the first overseas deployment of the F-35 fighter jets and the hosting of Watchkeeper, the British Army’s first operational Unmanned Air System developed and built in the UK.

He also outlined the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambrige to RAF Akrotiri and the base’s VE Day 75 celebrations as highlights.

Gp Capt Snaith thanked the British Forces Cyprus community, stating his time in the country was a "huge privilege".

He has now taken up a role at Al Udeid, a US air base stationed in Qatar responsible for overseeing air operations across the Middle East, for four months.