ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) said on Thursday that it continued to carry out regular bombardment of Islamic State (IS) positions in Syria and openly disagreed with recent comments about the militant group made by US President Donald Trump.
“The Royal Air Force has continued its bombardment of key Daesh (IS) targets in Syria, helping Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and coalition allies advance through Hajin, the terrorist group’s last significant territory,” read a statement released by the MOD.
“Typhoon and Tornado jets struck buildings, individuals and vehicles on a daily basis throughout the start of December, supporting the SDF efforts on the ground to recapture Hajin."
UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said, “The advance through Hajin is a huge milestone and shows that Daesh are being pushed further back into the shadows. Make no mistake though, although this is another significant battle won, much hard work still lies ahead to ensure we win the war.”
SDF press office head Mustafa Bali stressed in a statement on Friday that only 35 percent of Hajin had so far been liberated, contradicting earlier reports that the entire area had been cleared of IS.
The jihadi group’s fighters launched an attack on the village of Abu Khater, outside Hajin, the day before.
After President Trump stated that IS had been defeated in Syria on Wednesday and that he would withdraw US troops, UK lawmaker and Deputy Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood said he strongly disagreed with this position. “It has morphed into other forms of extremism and the threat is very much alive,” he tweeted in response to the US leader.
UK officials have since told the media that the White House has made it clear to them that Trump's comments signaled neither the end of the Global Coalition against IS, nor the campaign against the threat they posed.
The MOD said it would continue “to work with members of the coalition on achieving this, to deny Daesh territory and ensure its enduring defeat, working alongside our critical regional partners in Syria and beyond.”
“Much remains to be done and we must not lose sight of the threat Daesh will pose, even without territory.”
British diplomats have announced since Wednesday that they’d prefer the US to remain in Syria to continue stabilization efforts and the fight against IS.
Michael Stephens, Research Fellow for Middle East Studies and Head of RUSI Qatar, said that the different UK statements are consistent in terms of communicating, “Look, the fight isn’t over. We need to keep operating.”
However, he said it would be difficult for them to do so without US support. “This is a very difficult position for the UK. It’s one we don’t agree with. But there really is very little we can do if the US decides to pull troops out.”
“Ourselves and the French need to think of how to respond adequately. But I don’t feel it’s something they can burden share alone without US leadership,” he concluded.
Nicholas A. Heras, a Middle East security analyst at the Center for a New American Security, told Kurdistan 24, “France and the UK require U.S. support, particularly intelligence and logistical support, to maintain their force presence in Syria.”
“This support does not require a large U.S. presence in Syria, but it does require a U.S. commitment to stay engaged, even if from Iraq, in the stabilization mission after ISIS in Syria.”
Editing by John J. Catherine