Britain is Committed to Defeating ISIL and Staying Robust on Defense
From being the Foreign Office’s liaison to the Ministry of Defence during Operation Iraqi Freedom to serving as deputy head of mission in Tehran in 2009 when Ahmadinejad’s stolen re-election triggered the biggest upheaval in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, much of my career has been defined by working on crises, especially in the Middle East. In all cases, I have worked closely with my American colleagues to try to resolve the crises as well as promote stability and prosperity.
More recently, I was head of the Foreign Office’s Near East Department as the Arab Spring rippled across the region. In its wake, we saw the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Almost exactly two years ago, ISIL was targeted for the first time by coalition airstrikes on the outskirts of Erbil. Since then, there have been more than 14,000 strikes against ISIL positions in Iraq and Syria by the United States, United Kingdom, and other members of the coalition.
The good news is that our efforts are working: From the battlefield to the cyberspace, we have made significant progress in countering this global threat. ISIL has lost 40 percent of the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria. The group’s Twitter traffic has dropped 45 percent. The United Kingdom is proud to be playing a crucial role in this coalition, with over 1,100 military personnel deployed in the region. We’re leading partners in the air campaign over Iraq and Syria. We’re providing valuable expertise and support to troops in Iraq, including nearly 300 troops who have provided training to more than 19,000 Iraqi Security Forces in infantry skills and countering improvised explosive devices. And as our government announced in March, we are increasing our presence further in Iraq.
But this is not just a military fight. We are leading the coalition’s work on countering ISIL’s destructive messaging and ideology. We are supporting the government of Iraq as it seeks to deliver the kind of reconciliation and governance that will prevent ISIL, or any group like it, from regaining a foothold in Iraq. We are helping them plan for stabilization and reconstruction, and committed an additional $13.7 million in resources at the recent Iraq pledging conference. And we’ve contributed a total of $3.3 billion in vital life-saving humanitarian assistance to those affected by ISIL and the Assad regime, making Britain one of the largest donors to the Syria crisis.
But our counter-ISIL strategy is just one component of our robust defense strategy.
The United Kingdom remains one of only five NATO countries meeting the target to spend 2 percent GDP on defense. We also meet the equally important NATO target of spending 20 percent of our defense budget on new capabilities. Over the next decade, we will spend more than $211 billion on new equipment to keep Britain secure, including on next generation Apache helicopters, a fleet of Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft, new aircraft carriers equipped with F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, and a successor class of nuclear deterrent submarines.
During the NATO summit at Warsaw earlier this year, we reaffirmed Britain’s commitment to the alliance, pledging troops to stand up to Russian aggression, support for tackling terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, and resources to combat illegal migration in the Mediterranean.
The U.K. Armed Forces remain forces to be reckoned with. And our diplomatic corps remains one of the most respected in the world, with a presence in over 160 countries.
Following the recent referendum on E.U. membership, some have cast doubt about our continued global engagement. These doubts could not be further from reality. As we prepare over the next two years for a negotiation to exit the European Union, we are absolutely resolute. Britain will remain committed as ever to a peaceful, prosperous, and secure world.
What makes the United Kingdom great is our resilient democracy. We will never turn our back on the values that have made our country great. The United Kingdom will always be capable of thriving and prospering on the global stage. We are, and always will be, open for business, committed to peace and security, and a leading supporter of the international rules-based system. We will continue to be leading members of NATO, the G7, G20, and the Commonwealth, as well as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.
Around the globe, we will continue to be a valuable partner, a dependable ally, and a voice of reason. Through what has been a turbulent time for British and American politics alike, one thing remains absolutely certain: Our two countries enjoy a partnership like no other.
Today, the United States and the United Kingdom are resilient and strong partners and allies. Our troops equip, train, fight, and recuperate together, with 800 U.K. defense personnel stationed in 34 of the 50 states. Our trade and investment partnership – worth over $200 billion a year — has created a million jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. Ultimately, our people are strongly connected, bound by close linguistic, historical, cultural, and political ties.
As President Obama recently stated, “The special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is enduring, and the United Kingdom’s membership in NATO remains a vital cornerstone of U.S. foreign, security, and economic policy.” And his thoughts have been echoed by those on the other side of the aisle by leaders such as House Speaker Paul Ryan.
Like the United States, we are a country that has its eyes fixed firmly on the future. Whatever that future holds, we remain confident that it will be defined by leadership, vision, and the values that make both our countries beacons of democracy around the world.
Patrick Davies took up his post as Deputy Head of Mission at the British Embassy in Washington and U.K. Permanent Observer at the Organization of American States in September 2013. A career diplomat, Patrick has worked around the world. While serving in Iran, he was the embassy’s lead crisis manager and contingency planner in the aftermath of 2009 elections, when the regime was accusing the United Kingdom of conspiring with the opposition Green Movement. He was also responsible for developing policy on Iran’s nuclear program and human rights. Following his posting in Iran, Patrick returned to London to serve from 2010 as Head of the Foreign Office’s Near East and North Africa Department. He also led on coordination between the Foreign Office and other government departments, especially the Ministry of Defence, Cabinet Office and Department for International Development. In recognition of his outstanding record of service, in 2012 Her Majesty The Queen awarded him the Order of the British Empire (OBE).