Air Commodore Johnny Stringer predicts that Operation Shader, the fight against Islamic State, will be drawn down as the group are now seriously eroded.
UK Air Component Commander Air Commodore Johnny Stringer said:
“That is not to say it is over, that is not to say there won’t be some hard fighting and some slightly difficult fighting perhaps to come. I would see us being able to do something in that area, certainly in the next six and probably even the next four months or so.”
Speaking at a press conference, Stringer added:
“And I think it is almost sensible to acknowledge that Daesh will almost certainly morph into an insurgent organisation and try and launch an effective, in their eyes, insurgent campaign. I think we will still need an element of manned strike jet as well.
But I am hopefully we may see the ability to draw down elements of that final bit. Because frankly the tempo of our operations is going to reduce as Daesh are beaten in Iraq and Syria.”
The UK has been the second largest contributor to the air campaign in Iraq and Syria. UK aircraft have flown over 3,000 missions as part of Operation Shader, and as of the beginning of November 2016 had conducted 1,115 airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria (1,048 and 67 respectively).
In July 2016 the MoD acknowledged that “the RAF has not operated at this sustained operational tempo in a single theatre of conflict for a quarter of a century”.
The Government has consistently maintained that no civilian casualties in Iraq or Syria, to date, have resulted from UK air strikes however it adds “no military operations come without risk, particularly in dense urban environments and against such inhuman Daesh tactics, the RAF continues to take all steps necessary to minimise civilian casualties.”
In December 2016, it was reported that the Royal Air Force is operating at its most intense for 25 years in a single theatre of operation which far outstripped the UK involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan – RAF jets have dropped 11 times more bombs (1,276 strikes) on Syria and Iraq in the preceding 12 months than they had in the busiest year of action in Afghanistan a decade previously.
In answer to a parliamentary question in September 2016 the MoD set the costs of the operation, between August 2014 and the 31st of March 2016, at £265 million (£45 million in the 2014-15 financial year, and £220 million in the 2015-16 financial year).