Theresa May’s ‘mission accomplished’ moment? PM thanks UK troops for ‘crushing’ ISIS
Despite the UK facing a significant terrorism threat at home with a number of plots foiled in recent weeks, one against May herself, she celebrated the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) defeat in Iraq.
Operation Shader, which targeted IS and involved UK troops, was lauded by the PM as she stood by a Typhoon fighter jet at the Royal Air Force (RAF) base in Cyprus.
“Let’s be clear just what a difference that has made,” May said. “Just three years ago, Daesh [IS] declared a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, a safe haven in which to carry out the most barbaric acts and in which to plot murder on our streets at home.
“But today, thanks in very large part to your efforts, the so-called caliphate has been crushed and no longer holds significant territory in Iraq and Syria. You should be incredibly proud of that achievement.”
Although it is widely believed that IS was enabled to take hold because of the UK and US’s botched invasion of Iraq in 2003, May celebrated the contribution of British forces. The PM insisted Britain is still needed in the region to train Iraqi forces.
“While we need to deal directly with the threat they still pose in the region, we also need to focus on training the Iraqi security forces to keep Daesh out,” she said.
“As conflicts and tensions fuel instability across the Middle East, it is not just the security of that region which is threatened, it is the whole international order on what global security and prosperity depends.”
RAF Akrotiri is a major base for Britain’s fight against IS with more than 1,300 sorties launching and 2,000 military personnel taking part in the campaign to defeat Daesh. Soldiers based in Baghdad are currently preparing Iraqi forces to keep terrorist groups out of the region.
Although IS has lost its major urban centers in Mosul and Raqqa, an unknown number of its forces are still at large in the deserts of Iraq and Syria, where they remain capable of guerrilla warfare and continuing their insurgency.
There are even fears the group could seize territory elsewhere, in Afghanistan or Pakistan, and resume their state-building experiment.
Conflicts in Iraq have divided Britons. The 2003 invasion was opposed by millions. Ministry of Defense (MoD) officials have been accused of hiding the number of civilian casualties resulting from UK airstrikes and drone attacks.
“It is you, your professionalism, your courage and your sacrifices that give meaning to the pledges we make as a nation,” said May.
“It is you who take down our enemies and stand by our allies when the going gets tough. I hope that as a nation in this special year ahead we can collectively raise the national consciousness of the work you do and the sacrifices that you make in the service of others. As prime minister, I will do everything I can to lead the nation in this endeavor.”
Wishing the troops at the base a Merry Christmas, May said they were “the pride of our nation and that is how you should be treated.”
Next year will mark the RAF’s centenary and the 100th anniversary of the WWI armistice.