‘RAF warplanes to stay in Iraq over Daesh’
Iran Press TV
Sep 5, 2015 10:0AM
The British defense secretary has reportedly said the UK will extend its RAF Tornado mission against Daesh (ISIL) terrorists in Iraq by another year.
Michael Fallon said the fighter jets, which were to be decommissioned last March, will remain in service for strikes on Daesh in Iraq until "at least" March 2017, the state-run BBC reported.
Fallon also claimed the air campaign against the terrorist group was getting ahead.
British warplanes had pushed militants out of key towns and would maintain "essential precision firepower," the report quoted him as saying in a visit to Iraq.
British Tornados launched their combat missions in Iraq last September as part of the so-called US-led coalition against Daesh.
The report also said that the squadron of Tornado GR4 fighter bombers - Number 12 Squadron - was due to be disbanded last year and replaced with a squadron of Typhoon air defense fighters.
But, following initial airstrikes, Prime Minister David Cameron announced the Tornados would continue in their specialist ground-attack role until March 2016.
Fallon said this second reprieve for the eight bombers - which are based in Cyprus - would ensure the RAF retained "the essential precision firepower, intelligence and surveillance" capabilities against the militant group.
"RAF Tornados have carried out hundreds of strikes, helping Iraqi forces push back ISIL from the Kurdish region and out of key towns such as Tikrit and Bayji," he said.
He rejected the idea that the extension decision came because there were no other RAF aircraft capable of flying the missions.
The British defense chief also denied that Britain's contribution - of under 5% of the coalition's airstrikes - was making only a negligible difference, claiming the Tornados' combination of precision-guided weapons and hi-tech surveillance pods made them vital.
Together with the RAF's unmanned Reaper drones, the British aircraft have flown more than 1,100 combat missions over Iraq and carried out more than 250 airstrikes.
They have also carried out surveillance missions over Syria, but the UK parliament has not approved airstrikes there.
The report also made reference to ‘the painful truth’ that despite the so-called coalition strikes, the ISIL Takfiri terrorists were able to hold on to most of the vast swathes they have overrun in Iraq and Syria.
It said the ISIL is earning estimated oil revenues of $40 million a month and replenishing its ranks of recruits faster than they are being killed off.
The latest report comes as Iraq's top officials have time and time again criticized the US-led coalition for their ‘lackluster’ approach in battling the terrorists and failing to support the Iraqi military against Daesh.
Gruesome violence has plagued the northern and western parts of Iraq ever since Daesh Takfiris launched an offensive in June 2014, and took control of swathes of Iraqi territory.
The militants have been committing heinous crimes against all ethnic and religious groups in Iraq, including Shias, Sunnis, Kurds, Christians and others.
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