The Royal Air Force officer in charge of the British air campaign against the Islamic State group has told Forces News, in an exclusive interview, that the extremists still pose a threat to the UK.

Air Commodore Roddy Dennis, the UK's Air Component Commander, says IS is not yet beaten and operations will continue "for some time" against it after more than three years of military action.

Islamic State, otherwise known as Daesh, was both defeated in Iraq and removed from their Syrian headquarters last year, with UK forces playing a key role.

Britain launched airstrikes and sorties, and trained Iraqi ground forces in the battle against the terror group, after the beginning of Operation Shader in the autumn of 2014. Air Cdre Dennis said:

"Daesh aren't defeated yet, and they still present a threat to the UK."

He added, however, that "we've made it extremely difficult for them to operate."

"Operations are continuing, and I think they will for some time.

"We're essentially hunting them across the open desert... and denying them an ability to operate freely.

"Now's about searching them out, and when we find them, removing them from the battlefield."

By spring 2017, Islamic State was already losing ground, with over 60% of its territory in Iraq and 30% of the area it controlled in Syria having been liberated.

By July, Iraqi forces had retaken the second city of Iraq, Mosul, followed three months later by the removal of IS from the city of Raqqa - once the capital of the terror group's caliphate.

Air Cdre Dennis says:

"We're definitely removing them."

"We are experts at going out, wide area surveillance... and through our knowledge and expertise, and the brilliance of our people, we're able to single them out."

That expertise was publically recognised last year when Squadron Leader Roger Cruickshank became the first Shader pilot to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Despite being low on fuel he flew his Typhoon aircraft to the aid of Iraqi troops pinned down by IS, bombing the terrorist positions and saving their lives.

Just before Christmas, the Prime Minister visited RAF Akrotiri and praised the efforts of all personnel involved in Op Shader.

"Our UK partners are extremely valued" - Colonel Thomas Veale, Director of Public Affairs with Operation Inherent Resolve spoke to Forces News about the status of the mission against Islamic State.

The RAF is still flying daily missions, hitting terrorist bomb factories, tunnel networks and vehicles, as the coalition goes after those IS fighters still at large, including leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.

Air Cdre Dennis says:

"He is an individual that is but one element of Daesh - we're not looking out for one individual, we’re looking for Daesh as an organisation.

"We're absolutely focused, as this awful terrorist organisation that they are, to do whatever we can as part of a whole government effort to defeat Daesh and really remove that threat from the UK."

While IS has been bloodied on the battlefield, analysts believe its terrorist network lives on.

Interpol has a database listing the names of 43,000 foreign fighters from 60 countries believed to have joined IS.

As Op Shader enters its fifth calendar year, Islamic State remains a threat worldwide, and one the UK is likely to continue fighting for some time.

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