Following the publication of a Defence Committee report on the situation in Iraq and Syria a number of outlets are reporting that the UKis not doing enough to tackle ISIL.
We do not agree with the Defence Committee’s assessment.
The Prime Minister and Defence and Foreign Secretaries have been absolutely clear on our objectives and have set these out in the House on numerous occasions. The UK has carried out the second highest number of air strikes among coalition partners – second only to the US. We have gifted weapons and trained the Iraqi Security Forces, including the Kurdish Peshmerga, have delivered various strategic and skills training programmes and are planning to gift a further 1000 counter-IED detectors.
Military support is just one part of the UK Government’s comprehensive contribution to the global coalition strategy to defeat ISIL – we are also taking action to counter the terrorist network’s finances, are restricting the flow of foreign fighters and have provided vital humanitarian relief to help those affected by ISIL’s brutality.
The Committee’s suggestion that ISIL may be able to form a “state” is also inaccurate and would be dismissed by many of our partners in the Middle East. While they may hold territory and can fund fighters through stolen assets, they are illegally occupying part of sovereign Iraq and, despite the propaganda claims, people are living under fear of their forced rule.
The suggestion that service chiefs are unaware of an overarching strategy to tackling ISIL is wrong. Operations against ISIL are discussed frequently during MOD Chief of Staff meetings. The whole military strategy has been set - rightly - within the political framework and constraints set by the Government, based on the decisions made by elected representatives in the Houses of Parliament. The Government has a cross-departmental strategy for the UK contribution to defeating ISIL, which has been endorsed by the National Security Council, where the Chief of the Defence Staff presents military advice.
National voting day
A campaign has been launched by the Government, to coincide with National Voter Registration Day (NVRD), which encourages more Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen to register to vote in this year’s General Election.
NVRD was created in response to the lack of education and awareness around voter registration in the UK. It’s vital that all members of the Armed Forces have the chance to exercise their democratic right. While around 85% of the general population are on the electoral roll, the lower ranks of the Army and Royal Marines are reported as 60% and 61% respectively. Elsewhere, the Navy and RAF lower ranks reported rates of 75% and 74% respectively.
Anna Soubry, Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare and Veterans, said:
Politics affects everything from the food you eat, to the streets you walk on and the air you breathe. Voting gives people the opportunity to have a say on the important issues that affect them.
Defence is inherently associated with the democratic process – its purpose is to seek to defend freedoms of democracy, and by registering to vote personnel can demonstrate that they think this is an important right.
Being in the Armed Forces can sometimes make it difficult to remain on the electoral register, particularly if personnel move around regularly or are posted overseas. And in common with the wider population, young service personnel are less likely to register to vote than those who are older.
The UK will send up to 1,000 troops to a high readiness force and deploy four RAF Typhoon jets for air policing in the Baltic States to boost NATO’s collective security, the Defence Secretary has announced.
At the NATO Defence Minister’s meeting in Brussels today Defence Secretary Michael Fallon will confirm that the UK will be the lead nation in the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF) in 2017 and then on rotation thereafter. This will see the UK contributing manpower to two regional headquarters in Poland and Romania and to force integration units in the three Baltic States, Poland,Romania and Bulgaria. The VJTF is a high readiness, multinational force which will act as a ‘Spearhead force’, forming NATO’s first response in the face of aggression.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:
NATO’s credibility in the face of the security challenges we face depends on everyone playing their part to implement the decisions taken at Wales last year.
The Readiness Action Plan demonstrates the Alliance’s commitment to reinforce our collective defence but strong words must be backed up with firm action. That is why I am delighted to announce that the UK will lead the VJTF in 2017 and contribute to the Baltic Air Policing mission again in order to put the Plan into practice.