The UK is “ready” to launch strikes at ISIS in Afghanistan, after it was revealed by the Pentagon there are at least 2,000 “hardcore” ISIS-K fighters in the country.
Britain’s Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston, told The Daily Telegraph newspaper on Monday that the UK could be involved in strikes against ISIS-K.
He was speaking after the UK and the US troops completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.
“The UK stands united with our coalition partners in mourning those killed by Daesh’s (ISIS) horrific attack at Kabul airport and in our unwavering collective resolve to combat Daesh networks by all means available, wherever they operate.
“If there”s an opportunity for us to contribute, I am in no doubt that we will be ready to. That will be anywhere where violent extremism raises its head and is a direct or indirect threat to the UK and our allies. Afghanistan is probably one of the most inaccessible parts of the world, and we”re able to operate there,” said Wigston.
According to the newspaper, the UK government officials have reportedly examined logistics for air strikes, raising questions about where Royal Air Force (RAF) jets would be based, how they would refuel and how targets would be identified on the ground.
“Ultimately what this boils down to is that we”ve got to be able to play a global role in the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh (ISIS), whether it”s strike, or whether it”s moving troops or equipment into a particular country, at scale and at speed,” Wigston said.
When UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was on Tuesday asked to reflect on the comments, he said while he would not go into “operational details”, the UK retains the right to exercise “self-defence” and that must include “in relation to terrorist groups operating from abroad”.
Raab also reiterated that the UK government does not recognise some claims that the UK asked for a gate at Kabul airport to be left open to assist its evacuations hours before last week’s suicide bombing – despite US military leaders wanting to close it to minimise the risk.
“We did everything we could once we were alerted to the threat before the explosion took place to mitigate the risk,” Raab told the BBC.
The resolution, drafted by the UK and France, was passed with 13 votes in favour and two abstentions, from China and Russia.