I feel it is my duty not just to represent my constituents in Westminster, but to represent Westminster to my constituents – to ensure a two-way information flow. In that spirit, I want to update readers on the campaign against Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
This fight, and the UK’s involvement as one of the 67 nations working in coalition to defeat this evil regime, is on our screens during moments of major impact, but there are few updates on general progress. However, MPs receive regular briefings from the Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon.
Nearly two years have passed since Parliament voted to join the coalition after summer 2014 when Daesh overwhelmed Mosul and much of western Iraq and went on to threaten Baghdad.
From September 2014, UK personnel have been involved in training Iraqi troops, collecting intelligence and striking Daesh targets in Iraq. In December 2015, Parliament voted to extend RAF air strikes to Syria, underpinned by a UN Security Council Resolution which called on the international community to take “all necessary measures” to counter Daesh in accordance with the law.
So what has taken place since then?
Daesh has lost over half the territory it controlled in Iraq. The Iraqi Security Forces have liberated major towns and cities, freeing people living under siege. In Syria, Daesh has lost 20 per cent of its territory. Turkish-backed fighters have closed key crossings.
The RAF has carried out more than 1,050 air strikes, second only to the US, and flies day and night collecting intelligence. It is now at its highest operational tempo in a single theatre of conflict for a quarter of a century.
Some 400, soon to be 500, army personnel are deployed in Iraq, where they are helping to train 25,000 members of the Iraqi Security Forces in counter-IED (improvised explosive devices) techniques, medical help in the field, and bridge-building.
Royal Navy ships are protecting US and French aircraft carriers in the Gulf.
Daesh will not be defeated by military efforts alone. The wider strategy is to challenge the poisonous ideology, reduce the flow of foreign fighters and to cut off finances. Strikes on Daesh oilfields have reduced its revenues.
You have seen reports of the push to liberate Mosul. This is the largest city within Daesh’s domain. The UK and coalition are working to deliver critical supplies in the form of shelters, medical services and food. The UK is contributing to the humanitarian relief programme during this effort to liberate Mosul to the tune of £40million, which brings the total UK commitment to the victims of Daesh in Iraq to £170million since 2014.
In Syria, the UK has committed £2.3billion to the relief effort, making it our largest response to a single crisis. We are second only to the United states in our humanitarian efforts in the region.
The campaign to liberate Mosul will not be swift, nor will it be the final chapter, but Daesh is now in retreat on every battlefield in Iraq and Syria. We owe it to the millions of civilians displaced, persecuted and imprisoned by Daesh to continue with our efforts in ensuring the downfall of this evil ideology.
As we approach Remembrance weekend, I want to highlight the deep gratitude we have for all those military families who silently and tirelessly give our brave personnel the strength to put themselves in harm’s way to fight for a safer world for us all.