We are making significant progress. In Syria, Raqqa was freed from Daesh’s control on Friday. In Iraq, Mosul was liberated in July, and Tal Afar and Hawija followed very quickly thereafter. RAF strikes will continue against terrorist targets until they have been defeated in both Iraq and Syria. Only by pursuing this campaign can we help to reduce the terrorist threat to us here in Europe.
This campaign will evolve as coalition forces destroy and degrade Daesh strongholds in Syria and across the middle east. There are reports of Daesh activity in Libya. What plans does the Secretary of State have to ensure that when Daesh is defeated in one area, it does not have a resurgence in another?
We are working with the international coalition. We will be meeting as coalition Defence Ministers in a few weeks’ time in Brussels to ensure that there is no emergence of Daesh in Libya or in other countries. So far as Libya itself is concerned, we are supporting the United Nations plan under the special representative of the Secretary-General, Ghassan Salamé.
When the then Prime Minister asked this House to approve airstrikes in November 2015, he described Raqqa as
“the head of the snake”—[Official Report,
Now that the snake has apparently been beheaded, how long would the Secretary of State envisage the RAF staying in the region? And why on earth, after three opportunities, have the Government not made a statement to the House about this major development?
There are regular reports to the House by myself, the Foreign Secretary and the International Development Secretary in a cycle of reporting and updating on the campaign in Iraq and Syria. I briefed Members of Parliament—I think the hon. Gentleman was present—at the Ministry last week.
The campaign is now changing, following the liberation of Raqqa and Mosul. British forces will be training further forward and are providing appropriate force protection for our personnel in and around coalition bases. I have today authorised the deployment of additional medical personnel to al-Asad air base, and extended the deployment of British engineers there for a further six months.
This question is a start, but there may be a statement, by one means or another, in this Chamber before very long.
I was in Iraqi Kurdistan for the recent referendum and had the privilege of meeting troops from the 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment who are training the peshmerga in the fight against Daesh. I am bound to say that I was very impressed by what I saw, but given the Secretary of State’s positive and welcome assessment of the campaign, what next for our armed forces in the fight against Daesh?
It is important that we keep up the fight against Daesh until it has been pushed right up to the Syrian border in Iraq and defeated there and that we then begin the process of stabilisation and reconciliation in the provinces of Anbar and Nineveh to ensure that all those people—Sunni and Shi’a—realise that they have a stake in the future security of Iraq.
The Labour party has long called for an operational service medal for our personnel on Operation Shader, so we welcome last month’s announcement. The Secretary of State has rightly acknowledged that the changing nature of warfare requires changing the criteria for how we award medals. Does he have any plans to review the process, and when might that review be published?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome for an Operation Shader medal, which we hope to start issuing next year. It will rightly recognise the contribution made, over three years now, by our servicemen and women in this very important campaign against the evil of our time. I have already commented publicly about the current criteria, which require both “risk and rigour” to have been undergone before service personnel are eligible for a medal. The nature of warfare is changing, so we are having another look at those criteria.
One consequence of the success of the operations against Daesh has been the dispersal of many of its volunteers, including United Kingdom citizens. Yesterday, my hon. Friend Rory Stewart, who is a Minister of State at the Foreign Office and the Department for International Development, said that, as far as UK citizens who had served in ISIS were concerned, the only thing to do, with one or two exceptions, was to kill them. Is that now Government policy?
My hon. Friend and I have made it clear that those who travel to fight with Daesh in Iraq or Syria will have been committing a criminal offence. Daesh is a proscribed organisation, and we have to make sure that if these people ever do return from Iraq and Syria, they do not pose a future threat to our national security. However, they have made their choice: they have chosen to fight for an organisation that uses terror and the murder of civilians as a modus operandi.