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UK Will Not Be 'Complacent' Over Middle East

Jeremy Hunt said the UK sees the war against so-called Islamic State as not being over.

Kabul

The city of Kabul (Picture: Crown Copyright).

The Foreign Secretary says the UK will not be "complacent" about the Middle East after US President Donald Trump confirmed he is removing troops from Syria.

Jeremy Hunt said the UK assesses the war against so-called Islamic State (IS), also known as Daesh, as not being over, despite Mr Trump saying the terror group has been "largely defeated".

During a visit to Iraq, President Trump said it was time for Middle East nations to "step up" in the process of rebuilding Syria and that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had agreed to take out "any remnants" of IS left in the country.

Asked if Mr Trump was right to declare that the war against IS has been won in Syria, Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "President Trump makes a speciality out of talking in very black and white terms about what's happening in the world.

"I think the UK assessment is that we have made massive progress in the war against Daesh but it's not over, and, although they have lost nearly all the territory they held, they still hold some territory and there are still some real risks.

"We have to continue to be vigilant, we don't believe we can be at all complacent in the situation we're in."

British soldier at Camp Taji
British troops have been in Iraq training security forces since 2014.

Told that US troops are also reported to be on the brink of being pulled out of Afghanistan, Mr Hunt said: "We will continue to do everything we need to do to make sure the streets of Britain are safe and this is a security issue for the UK as well as Afghanistan.

"So we have to remember that if we are in any way complacent - and we certainly won't be in the UK - about the risks in that part of the world, problems find their way right the way to the UK."

The UK has been fighting IS for more than four years in the form of Operation Shader - Britain's contribution to the fight against Daesh.

Since 2014, British soldiers have trained 75,000 members of the Iraqi security forces at Camp Taji and at other bases across the country as part of the battle to defeat IS.

Following Mr Trump's announcement over the US withdrawal from Syria, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis abruptly resigned after the announcement and was followed by the appointment of Patrick Shanahan as Acting Defense Secretary.