Op Shader RAF Crews Head To Their Aircraft
Op Shader

UK Forces 'To Remain In Syria' Following Capture Of Last IS Stronghold

British forces will not scale-back their presence in Syria and Iraq following the capture of the last IS stronghold.

Op Shader RAF Crews Head To Their Aircraft

The liberation of the last of the so-called Islamic State (IS)'s territory in Syria has been hailed by British politicians as a historic achievement, but they warned that the threat from the terror group remains.

Prime Minister Theresa May credited the "immense courage" of the UK armed forces and their allies, while Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt vowed Britain will "remain resolute" in its commitment against the group, also known as Daesh, and its "poisonous ideology".

Are Air Strikes Alone Enough To Defeat Islamic State?
The RAF said it had launched more that 1,700 air strikes as part of Operation Shader in 2018 (Picture: MOD).

British forces will not scale-back their presence in Syria and Iraq following the capture of the last IS stronghold.

Major General Chris Ghika, Deputy Commander of the Global Coalition's Joint Task Force, said the terror organisation is by no means "leaderless or rudderless", despite its loss of land.

He said he could not predict whether the fall of Baghouz would substantially increase or decrease the terror risk to the UK.

Maj Gen Ghika said Op Shader will still continue, despite the defeat of IS: "I think the British contribution to Operation Shader, which is principally in the air component, will continue but also the very important work to advise and train the Iraqi security forces which we’ve been doing since 2014.

"That will continue because the Iraqi state still needs capable security forces to counter IS."

The capture of Baghouz is a milestone in the four-year campaign to defeat the group's so-called "caliphate" that once covered a vast territory straddling both Syria and Iraq.

It was announced on Saturday by Mustafa Bali, from the Syrian Democratic Forces, who tweeted:

"Syrian Democratic Forces declare total elimination of so-called caliphate and 100% territorial defeat of Isis."

Theresa May tweeted: "The liberation of the last Daesh-held territory wouldn't have been possible without the immense courage of UK military and our allies."

She added:

"We will continue to do what is necessary to protect the British people, our Allies and partners from the threat Daesh poses."

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said it had been a long campaign to end the "misery of millions".

He added: "Due to the tireless efforts of our service personnel, we have been able to beat them back, depriving them of territory and making sure that Britain is safer."

"But we cannot be complacent. They've dispersed, and they'll continue to pose a threat to Britain, and that is why we will always remain vigilant."