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Counter-Daesh Operations

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 2 May 2018

As part of our counter-terrorism strategy, the UK is playing a leading role in the global coalition to defeat Daesh—a unified body of 75 members. We have committed nearly 1,400 military personnel to the region to provide support to local partners.

In the air, the RAF has conducted more than 1,600 air strikes in Iraq and Syria—second only to the US—and provides highly advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to coalition partners. These strikes are undertaken in the collective self-defence of Iraq as part of the global coalition to defeat Daesh, and at the request of the Government of Iraq. On the ground, British soldiers have trained over 60,000 members of the Iraqi security forces in engineering, medical, counter-IED and basic infantry skills. As a result of the coalition’s action, Daesh has lost more than 98% of the territory it once occupied in Iraq and Syria, and 7.7 million people have been liberated from its rule.

We do everything we can to minimise the risk to civilian life from UK strikes through our rigorous targeting processes and the professionalism of UK service personnel. It is therefore deeply regrettable that a UK air strike on 26 March 2018, targeting Daesh fighters in eastern Syria, resulted in an unintentional civilian fatality. During a strike to engage three Daesh fighters, a civilian motorbike crossed into the strike area at the last moment and it is assessed that one civilian was unintentionally killed. We reached this conclusion after undertaking routine and detailed post-strike analysis of all available evidence. There are limits on any further details that can be provided given ongoing operations and consequent national security issues. As with any serious incident the wider coalition also conducts its own investigation and will report in due course.

These events serve to remind us of the consequences of conflict and of the heavy price that the people of Syria have paid. It reminds us that when we undertake military action, we must do so knowing that it can never be completely without risk.

Such incidents will not weaken our resolve to defeat Daesh and rid the world of its poisonous ideology of hate and intolerance. The UK’s commitment to the global coalition against Daesh and to the people of Iraq and Syria will remain as strong as ever.