ISLAMIC State is still very much a threat and will ‘pop up in different guises with different tools’ in the wake of its territorial defeat, the Defence Secretary has said.
n 2014 the group blitzed across vast swathes of Syria, seizing Raqqa, and spread into northern and western Iraq, capturing Mosul and even advancing to the edges of Baghdad.
Since then there have been concerted international efforts to destroy the extremists, seeing the recent fall of the self-proclaimed territorial caliphate that once stretched over an area the size of Britain.
Britain's contribution, known as Operation Shader, has involved airstrikes on key IS targets, the training of local forces and the provision of military equipment.
Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt was speaking as she announced how the UK's F-35B stealth fighter jets had conducted their first operational missions over Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Shader.
Asked how much of a risk the extremist group still poses, she said: ‘They're still a threat. They're a threat in the region and clearly their networks are a threat elsewhere in the world.
‘We know that this situation will evolve, they'll pop up in different guises with different tools.
‘That's why, as well as making sure these fantastic capabilities are working well and that we are using them well, we have to also think about what next.
‘We have to generate new capabilities to respond to whatever they're going to do next.’
Since Operation Shader began, RAF jets alongside Reaper drones have carried out more than 1,700 strikes using 4,300 weapons, as well as surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
On June 16 the cutting-edge F-35s joined British Typhoons currently based at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, in the ongoing hunt for the last remnants of the Islamists.
No bombs have been dropped or missiles fired by the F-35s during their operational missions, which involved armed reconnaissance.
Group Captain Jonny Moreton, the commanding officer of 903 Expeditionary Air Wing, said the current phase of the fight against Islamic State is not ‘very kinetic’.