Following the Arab Spring uprising in 2011, there has been major political and social unrest in the Middle East and North Africa. Demands from citizens for fairer, more democratic societies across the region have resulted in the breakdown of several autocratic governments, but also in turbulent civil wars which have raged in Syria and Yemen. Unfortunately, terrorist groups have attempted to capitalise on the political upheaval in the region to establish territory and propagate violent ideologies.
Daesh (also known as ISIL, Islamic State, or ISIS) is one of these terrorist groups. It claims to represent Islam but uses the banner of religion to carry out barbaric atrocities, including beheadings, crucifixions and the slaughter of children.
The UK is playing a key role in the Global Coalition – a unified body of 71 partners committed to degrading and defeating Daesh through military action; tackling Daesh’s finances; preventing the flow of foreign terrorist fighters; supporting stabilisation efforts; and degrading Daesh’s poisonous and false narrative.
Daesh poses a threat to UK national security as it seeks to expand its terror network, using propaganda to radicalise and recruit citizens from the UK and across the world. The UK has a counter-terrorism strategy to prevent and disrupt plots against this country; and our comprehensive counter extremism strategy seeks to tackle the extremists who cause harm, create divisions in our communities and undermine the shared values of this country.
The air campaign
The Royal Air Force began the first airstrikes against Daesh in 2014. Between then and 2017, RAF Typhoon, Tornado and Reaper aircraft have struck Daesh more than 1,300 times in Iraq and over 260 times in Syria.
In that time the terror group has lost territory, finances, leaders and fighters as the 71 member coalition has liberated cities in both countries. As the second largest contributor to the Global Coalition’s military campaign, the UK has flown more than 8,000 sorties providing strikes, surveillance and reconnaissance, air-to-air refuelling and transport.
The RAF played an essential role to allies, helping Syrian Democratic Forces engaged in ground close combat and the Iraqi Security Forces who continue their advance having liberated Mosul and Ninewah province.
More than 5.5 million people have been freed from Daesh’s rule and over two million displaced Iraqi civilians have returned to their homes. In Mosul alone, it is estimated that over 265,000 people have returned.
The UK’s efforts against Daesh in Iraq and Syria are part of a wider strategy to promote peace and prosperity in the Middle East and North Africa. The Arab Spring in 2011 highlighted the interconnected nature of the region, which Daesh has subsequently exploited to expand across Iraq, Syria and Libya. Thus, efforts to defeat Daesh are essential to the stability and security of the whole region.
The UK is working to encourage political stability based on open, inclusive and democratic systems.
Daesh’s presence in Iraq has resulted in the displacement of over 3.3 million Iraqi people. In response to this, the UK has pledged over £169 million in humanitarian aid to Iraq since June 2014. This life-saving aid has provided shelter, clean water, medicine and financial support to thousands of vulnerable Iraqis.
The conflict in Syria resulted in one of the worst humanitarian crises of all time as 1.5 million people there are living in siege-like conditions. The vast majority are in areas besieged by the regime. In spite of international pressure, the regime and other parties continue to wilfully impede humanitarian access.
The UK is fully committed to supporting the Syrian people, wherever they are. To date, the UK has pledged more than £2.46 billion to support those affected by the conflict - the UK’s largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis. UK funding has delivered over 25 million food rations, 7.9 million medical consultations and relief items for over 9.5 million people across the region.