LONDON: A squadron of jets known as the “Dambusters” for their role in targeting German dams during the Second World War will join the fight against Daesh in Iraq.
Britain’s Royal Air Force will send 617 Squadron — which flies the brand new F-35B jet — to a wider mission aimed at preventing the group “regaining a foothold in Iraq.”
The Ministry of Defence said the jets will target “remnants” of Daesh still holding out in Iraq.
Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said the “jets will pack a potent punch against Daesh and help prevent them from regaining a foothold in Iraq.
“This is a prime example of the UK armed forces stepping forward with our allies to confront persistent threats around the world.”
The mission will be conducted in cooperation with US armed forces, who have been working closely with the UK to confront Daesh since 2014.
A senior air force commander said he was in no doubt “violent extremism and the toxic ideology underpinning it is still rooted” in the region.
He added: “We’re going to conduct operations in support of the government of Iraq, fighting the remnants of Daesh in Iraq and Syria — and continuing to take the fight to them in their sanctuary where otherwise they would be threatening the streets of the UK and our allies.
“It’s something that air power has been doing very effectively now since 2014 and the Royal Air Force has played a considerable part in that success.
“Daesh is no longer the ground-holding force, the occupying force, that it was in 2015 and 2016.
“For the last two years we have been identifying pockets where they have dug in to strongholds in the mountains in remote areas, and have been helping the government of Iraq to clear out those remnants.”
Despite the group’s military and territorial decline, observers have noted that Daesh has not yet been completely eradicated, and has instead returned to its pre-caliphate clandestine terror tactics.
A report released February by Global Risks Insights warned that economic instability and sectarian tension in Iraq could provide fertile ground for the group’s resurgence, and that the ongoing conflict in Syria also represents a danger to the country’s stability.
“In early 2021, Iraq continues to see civil unrest over high unemployment, corruption, and the lack of basic services provided by the government,” said the report.
“Additionally, Iranian influence and the presence of proxy militias, which were initially intended to fight Daesh, are also creating tensions between Sunni and Shia groups in Iraq.”
It added: “The state remains highly fragile and susceptible to Daesh using the rapidly changing dynamics to re-establish a foothold.”