Since Parliament authorised military action in support of combat operations, the Royal Air Force has flown some 139 missions, gathering intelligence, providing surveillance and striking some 37 targets. We are already providing training and equipment to Kurdish forces and we are now preparing to provide further infantry, combat first aid, sharp-shooting and counter-improvised explosive device training.
Does the Secretary of State agree that if our policy aim in Iraq is the successful containment of ISIL, we are indeed making a fantastic contribution towards that, but that if our aim is the degradation or destruction of ISIL, as we were originally told, that will occur only if there is significant political engagement by the Baghdad Government, particularly with Sunni-friendly tribes? Does he agree that, unless we have that wider political engagement, what we are doing is either unnecessary or not enough?
Let me confirm to my hon. Friend that it is indeed our aim to help the legitimate Government of Iraq to degrade and defeat ISIL in that country. I agree that the new Government of Iraq have to be inclusive, and they are: they represent Shi’as, Sunnis and Kurds. The new defence Minister is a Sunni, and I have emphasised to him the importance of demonstrating that the Iraqi national army is there for all the peoples of Iraq.
May I remind the Secretary of State that, when I asked the Prime Minister about boots on the ground, he said that they would not be the boots of our own troops but other people’s boots? I have to tell the Secretary of State that, when representatives of my Kurdish community came to see me recently, they were angry that the Kurds fighting for us against ISIL were not being provided with enough machinery or weaponry.
I have been to Kurdistan and I was in a training ground close to Irbil where I saw for myself the Kurdish forces training on the heavy machine guns that we in this country had donated to them. We are following that up with the supply of other arms and equipment and, just as importantly, the training to go with it.
23. There have been recent successes for the Iraqi army and its associated militias of late, but those have been costly, both in lives and equipment. To what extent has the lost equipment been replaced and to what extent are the British Government assisting in that replacement? (906200)
There have been losses to the Iraqi and the Kurdish forces, which is an indication that they are taking the fight to ISIL, and it is important that we support them in that task. The Iraqi Defence Minister handed me a list of some of the gaps in their capabilities. We are now looking at that and seeing what can be supplied from our inventory, and we are encouraging other countries to do the same.