Comment Doug Beattie: I support both air action and boots on the ground

Captain Doug Beattie while serving with the Royal Irish in Helmand Province
Captain Doug Beattie while serving with the Royal Irish in Helmand Province

They say it is always darkest before dawn and in Daesh controlled areas of Iraq and Syria this cannot be doubted.

Over the last two years Daesh has spread like a virus through the region leaving in their wake a repressive murderous regime that controls the population by torture, sexual violence and mass executions. They are a barbaric, medieval state that must be eradicated – of that there is also no doubt.

The debate on how to deal with Daesh has ebbed and flowed over the last two years and now it seems we are at a tipping point. Westminster last night voted for air strikes being extended from Iraq into Syria, the aim is to target and degrade the Daesh command and control network, their main supply routes and their terrorist control centres. If I was an MP, I would certainly have voted in favour of such action.

But as any military commander knows to totally eradicate Daesh it will require what is euphemistically called ‘boots on the ground’ to take and hold ground. I would also support such a move.

As the vote is taken on the extension of air strikes the question must be “what is the next step”.

Already the United Kingdom have dismounted forces in Iraq, their role is to train the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces on the use of communications equipment, heavy weapons, basic infantry tactics and counter IED techniques and procedures. If that was to be extended the likelihood is the UK would extend its contribution to Syria with ground forces dedicated to training the Syrian Kurds in a non-combat role.

They would equip train and mentor local ground forces to work in conjunction with other indigenous forces and neighbouring countries. These locally trained forces would find, fix and strike Daesh in order to squeeze and hem them back into Raqqa in the process starve them of the finances and materials of war.

The introduction of a US ‘Specialised expeditionary targeting force’ to put pressure on Daesh may well be supplemented by Special Forces from the UK which would be able to give more detailed ground truth and better targeting of Daesh infrastructure.

In the end Daesh must be degraded from the air but can only be defeated on the ground and as any good soldier will tell you no plan will survive contact with the enemy.

• Doug Beattie MC, a former captain in the Royal Irish Regiment, is an Ulster Unionist Party councillor representing Portadown