The RAF has warned it is prepared to launch air strikes against so-called Islamic State terrorists in Afghanistan, as the US completes its withdrawal from the country.
The US-led military presence ended in Afghanistan on Monday (30 August), a day ahead of the deadline set by President Joe Biden, bringing an end to a deployment of troops which began in the wake of the September 11 attacks two decades ago.
The withdrawal of the US military follows the removal of British troops last week, concluding the airborne evacuation effort from the city of Kabul.
Following the withdrawal of US troops, the Taliban proclaimed “full independence” for Afghanistan.
UK and US prepared to strike
Despite no longer having a presence in the country, both the UK and US remain willing to take on the Islamic State, also known as Daesh.
In the final days of the evacuation effort, the group’s Afghan offshoot, known as Isis-K, carried out an attack on Kabul airport killing two Britons, the child of a British national, 13 US service personnel and many Afghans.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said the global coalition against the terrorist group was ready to “combat Daesh networks by all means available”, with Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston indicating that the RAF could strike Isis-K targets in the country.
Sir Wigston said the UK has a “global role” to play in the “global coalition to defeat Daesh”, which could involve launching an air strike against Isis-K targets.
He told the Daily Telegraph: “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, whether it’s strike, or whether it’s moving troops or equipment into a particular country, at scale and at speed.
“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.”
A unified international response
The Taliban is facing pressure to respect human rights and provide safe passage for those who wish to escape its rule following the passage of a UN Security Council resolution.
The council adopted a resolution in New York – with Russia and China abstaining rather than wielding their vetoes – in what the UK hopes is a step towards a unified international response.
However, the resolution acknowledges that it is now the decision of the Taliban to decide whether it will allow people to leave Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson the resolution “makes clear that the international community stands with Afghans”, and warned there can be “no return to repression or terror”.
While Russia and China did not back the resolution, the UK is hopeful that Moscow and Beijing can wield some influence over the new Afghan government on issues including countering terrorism and the trade in narcotics, preventing a refugee crisis and further economic collapse.
Dame Barbara Woodward, the UK’s ambassador to the UN, stressed that a “coordinated approach will be vital” to effectively counter any extremist threat from Afghanistan, and warned the council will hold the Taliban accountable for its actions.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, NationalWorld.