The British Air Force (RAF) is ready to launch fresh airstrikes against the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group in Afghanistan even after the United Kingdom and allies completed their withdrawal from the country, Air Chief Marshal Mike Wigston told The Telegraph.
The UK ended its 20-year military presence in Afghanistan on August 28, when its last military flight left the Kabul airport. On Monday, the United States said that every single American service member is now out of Afghanistan, ahead of the August 31 deadline.
“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 [IS] – whether it’s a strike or whether it’s moving troops or equipment into a particular country at scale and at speed,” Wigston said in an interview, published on Monday.
London is in talks with its partners on long-term plans to base more air force units overseas, the official continued.
“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,” he added.
On August 26, several deadly blasts targeted the Kabul airport and its outskirts. The Islamic State-Khorasan terrorist group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The US has since responded with drone strikes against what it said were IS targets in Kabul and other areas of Afghanistan.
Earlier in June this year, the UK’s Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier launched the vessel’s first combat sorties with F-35 fighter jets targeting the Islamic State terrorist group in support of the American-led Operation Inherent Resolve.
“HMS Queen Elizabeth’s first missions against Daesh [ISIS] will be remembered as a significant moment in the 50-year lifespan of this ship,” UK Carrier Strike Group 21 Commander, Commodore Steve Moorhouse said in the release. “Now we are ready to deliver the hard punch of maritime-based airpower against a shared enemy.
The strike group includes 18 fifth-generation F-35 Lightning jets, the largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave the UK in a generation and the strike group’s first operational deployment, the release said.
Sorties from Queen Elizabeth also mark the first combat mission flown by US-made aircraft from a foreign aircraft carrier since the UK Carrier Victorious in the South Pacific in 1943, according to the release.
Resistance Leaders Ready For Talks
The leader of the resistance in the Afghan province of Panjshir, Ahmad Massoud told Foreign Policy magazine he would give up his struggle if the Taliban form an inclusive government and guarantee equal rights for all Afghans.
“If the Taliban are willing to share power with everyone and are willing to establish justice and to give equal rights and freedom to all of Afghanistan, then I will step down and quit politics,” Massoud said in an interview, published on Monday.
The National Resistance Front does not receive any foreign financial support, the leader added, noting that many countries in the region took the Taliban’s side.
“The government [of ex-President Ashraf Ghani] drove many regional countries to the side of the Taliban. From its ethnic-nationalist rhetoric to its water policies, it provoked and antagonized our neighbors, and they grew closer to the Taliban,” he stated.
On August 15, the Taliban took over Kabul, gaining control of almost all of Afghanistan and causing the civilian government to collapse. Panjshir, located northeast of Kabul, remains the only province that has not fallen to the Taliban.