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Operation SHADER

Volume 612: debated on Thursday 30 June 2016

In the counter-Daesh quarterly update to Parliament on 24 May 2016, I said that following the meeting of counter-Daesh coalition Defence Ministers in Stuttgart on 4 May, we were considering what further support the UK might offer to reinforce the global coalition.

I can confirm today that we will be sending around 50 additional trainers to the Al Asad airbase in Western Iraq to provide instruction on countering improvised explosive devices (c-IED), infantry skills and combat first aid. As well as the extra training personnel, the UK will also provide around 90 personnel to assist with guarding the airbase, and around 30 personnel to form a head quarter staff to help command the mission. In addition an engineering squadron will deploy for around six months to build necessary infrastructure to support the deployment.

This deployment will add to the significant contribution the UK is already making to the campaign, with over 1,100 personnel deployed to the region. Our strike aircraft have now conducted around 900 air strikes against Daesh targets in Iraq and Syria and our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft provide niche and highly valued capabilities. On the ground, as part of the coalition’s Building Partner Capacity (BPC) programme our forces have helped to train more than 18,000 members of the Iraqi security forces (ISF), including Kurdish forces, in Besmaya, Erbil and Taji. With coalition support, Iraqi forces are pushing Daesh back and reoccupying territory. Fallujah has now been liberated after suffering at the hands of Daesh since early 2014. As Iraqi forces continue to regain territory and begin preparatory operations to retake Mosul, it is important that the coalition continues to provide the support needed to allow them to make further progress.

The extra trainers will be working closely with US and Danish forces, who lead the BPC programme at Al Asad, providing training to the Iraqi army 7th Division, border guards and federal police from behind the wire in c-IED and basic infantry skills, and combat first aid. This will in turn help Iraqi forces consolidate recent military gains in Anbar province and the building of forces for operations around Mosul.

On 24 May 2016 I also set out our intention to provide the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq with a supply of ammunition to equip the Peshmerga. I am today laying a departmental minute concerning the gifting of ammunition to the Kurdistan Regional Government. This will enable the Peshmerga to defend themselves, protect citizens and continue to hold the front line against Daesh. The gifting package will consist of heavy machine gun ammunition for use with the weapons previously gifted by the UK, and sniper rifle ammunition. The total cost is approximately £1.4 million plus an estimated £4,100 in transport costs. Given the requirement to provide support to ongoing operations in northern Iraq, the departmental minute will lay for five sitting days from the date of this statement.