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31st Aug 2021

UK ‘ready’ to launch strikes against ISIS-K in Afghanistan

Steve Hopkins

The Pentagon has said there are 2,000 “hardcore” ISIS-K fighters in Afghanistan

The United Kingdom is “ready” to launch strikes at ISIS in Afghanistan, the head of the Royal Air Force has said.

While the UK finished its withdrawal from Afghanistan on Sunday, RAF Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston told the Daily Telegraph that the UK could be involved in strikes against Islamic State Khorasan – or ISIS-K.

ISIS-K was responsible for the suicide bombing attacks which killed almost 200 people – including two British citizens – at Kabul airport last week. The Pentagon has said there are at least 2,000 “hardcore” ISIS-K fighters in Afghanistan.

Wigston said: “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.”

He added: “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.”

US forces completed their withdrawal late on Monday evening, ending a western military presence in the country that has lasted since the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001.

Wigston’s comments come after Dominic Raab said Monday that the UK stands with its allies to combat Islamic State “by all means available, wherever they operate”.

Posting on Twitter after the first meeting with G7 members, Nato, Qatar and Turkey on Monday, the foreign secretary said: “The UK stands united with our coalition partners in mourning those killed by Daesh’s horrific attack at Kabul airport and in our unwavering collective resolve to combat Daesh networks by all means available, wherever they operate.”

In a statement, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office added that Raab “emphasised the importance of working with like-minded partners on safe passage and exit arrangements for eligible Afghans remaining in the country”.

The US carried out a strike on what they say was an “ISIS-K vehicle” carrying “a substantial amount of explosive material” and heading to Kabul airport on Sunday. Reports have since suggested the strike killed 10 members of one family, including several children.

The US is “assessing” what happened, after “significant secondary explosions” took place according to US Army spokesman Major General William Taylor.

Related links

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