UK action to combat Daesh

Daesh (also known as ISIL, Islamic State or ISIS) poses a national threat to the UK and a global threat to our international partners. We are working closely with Coalition partners to degrade and ultimately defeat Daesh. The UK government is taking a wide range of actions to counter this terror group.

The Threat

Following the Arab Spring uprising in 2011, there has been major political and social unrest in the Middle East and North Africa. Demands from citizens for fairer, more democratic societies across the region have resulted in the breakdown of several autocratic governments, but also in turbulent civil wars which continue to rage in Syria and Yemen. Unfortunately, terrorist groups have attempted to capitalise on the political upheaval in the region to establish territory and propagate violent ideologies.

Daesh (also known as ISIL and ISIS) is one such group. The UK is at the forefront of global efforts to degrade and defeat Daesh. The suppression of their poisonous ideology is vital for our own national security.

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Defeating Daesh in Iraq and Syria

The UK is a member of the Global Coalition - a unified body of 79 international partners dedicated to degrading and defeating Daesh. The Global Coalition was formed in September 2014 and is unique in its membership, scope and commitment.

All members are committed to countering Daesh’s global ambitions and dismantling its networks through:

  1. providing essential military support to local forces;
  2. stifling Daesh’s financing and economic infrastructure
  3. preventing the flow of foreign terrorist fighters across borders;
  4. supporting stabilisation efforts in areas liberated from Daesh;
  5. exposing Daesh’s delusional and false religious narrative through counter messaging.

The UK plays a leading role in all of the above.


The UK has committed nearly 1,400 military personnel to the region to provide essential support to local forces. In the air, the Royal Air Force has conducted more than 1,600 air strikes in Iraq and Syria - second only to the U.S. – and provides highly advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to Coalition partners. On the ground, 600 British army soldiers have trained over 60,000 members of the Iraqi Security Forces in engineering, medical, counter-IED and basic infantry skills.

As a result, Daesh has lost more than 99% of the territory it once occupied in Iraq and Syria and 7.7million people have been liberated from their rule.


The UK recognises that the disruption of Daesh finances is essential to their defeat. The UK has public and private co-operation with the banking industry to ensure Daesh is denied access to the official financial system. We work closely with finance specialists in the region to increase our understanding of the informal Hawala finance network, commonly used by Daesh, and share our knowledge with local Financial Investigation Units to help disrupt Daesh’s economic infrastructure in Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey.

As a member of the Global Coalition, the UK participates in precision airstrikes against Daesh-controlled oil fields and infrastructure, in order to disrupt Daesh’s primary source of income. We also work closely with Coalition partners to prevent Daesh profiting from the illegal trafficking of antiquities, which they have plundered from Syria and Iraq.

Foreign Terrorist Fighters

The UK advises against all travel to Syria and parts of Iraq. Anyone who does travel, for whatever reason, is putting themselves in considerable danger. People seeking to travel to engage in terrorist activity in Syria or Iraq should be in no doubt that the UK will take the strongest possible action to protect national security, including prosecuting those who break the law. There is wide range of powers at the Home Office’s disposal to disrupt travel and manage the risk posed by returnees.

The number of foreign fighters from across the world travelling to join Daesh in Iraq and Syria has decreased by up to 90% since 2014.


Stabilisation is the process of rebuilding essential services and utilities so people are able to return home. The UK has committed over £25million to stabilisation in Iraq, split between UN Fund for Immediate Stabilisation and the UN counter-IED effort; securing liberated areas, clearing Daesh explosives and supporting the renovation of water facilities, power networks, clinics and schools. To date, more than 3.2 million Iraqis have returned home to areas liberated from terrorists thanks to this fund. The UK is also providing £300 million in loan guarantees to Iraq through the World Bank, as part of the $3.6 billion package of economic assistance to Iraq announced at the G7 Summit in Japan in 2016.

Strategic Communications

The UK leads international efforts to counter Daesh’s propaganda and damage its brand. In September 2015, the UK launched the Counter-Daesh Communications Cell.

Through the UK’s leadership, the Cell has changed the international narrative around Daesh – from one that highlights their atrocities to one which emphasises their failures. This has been vital in damaging the perception of Daesh and reducing their ability to recruit. The UK provides daily information packs to Coalition partners, containing facts and figures on Daesh’s increasing failures. We also launched a Global Coalition website that houses up-to-date information on Coalition progress. All of this has helped Governments highlight Daesh’s lies and expose their inadequacies. As a result of our combined efforts, Daesh’s propaganda output dropped by 75% last year.

For further information on the Global Coalition’s efforts, please visit or follow the Coalition on Twitter - @Coalition and @CoalitionAR.

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Mitigating the impact on the region

The UK’s efforts against Daesh in Iraq and Syria are part of our wider strategy to promote peace and prosperity in the Middle East and North Africa. The Arab Spring in 2011 highlighted the interconnected nature of the region, which Daesh has subsequently exploited to expand across Iraq, Syria and Libya. Thus, our efforts to defeat Daesh are essential to the stability and security of the whole region.

The UK is working to encourage political stability based on open, inclusive and democratic systems. For more information on our efforts in the region, please visit the stability in the Middle East & North Africa webpage.

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Humanitarian support


Daesh’s presence in Iraq has resulted in the displacement of over 3.3 million Iraqi people. In response to this, the UK has pledged over £229.5 million in humanitarian aid to Iraq since June 2014. This life-saving aid has provided shelter, clean water, medicine and financial support to thousands of vulnerable Iraqis.

For more information on our humanitarian effort in Iraq, please visit the DfID Iraq page or view this factsheet.


The conflict in Syria has resulted in one of the worst humanitarian crises of all time. 13.6 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and hundreds of thousands have been killed in the conflict between the Assad regime, extremist groups - including Daesh - and moderate opposition groups.

The UK is fully committed to supporting the Syrian people, wherever they are. To date, we have pledged more than £2.46 billion to support those affected by the conflict - our largest ever response to a single humanitarian crisis. We are the third largest bilateral humanitarian donor to the Syrian crisis. UK funding has delivered over 26.2 million food rations, 10.3 million medical consultations and relief items for over 9.8 million people across the region.

For more information on our humanitarian effort in Syria, please visit the DfID Syria page or view this factsheet.

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Addressing the Political Causes

The Syrian Civil War is a direct result of President Bashar Al-Assad’s brutal and inhumane treatment of the Syrian people. The UK continues to make every effort to achieve our goals in Syria: of defeating the scourge of Daesh, and of achieving a political settlement that ends the suffering and provides stability for all Syrians and the wider region. There ultimately needs to be a transition to a new, inclusive, non-sectarian government that can protect the rights of all Syrians, unite the country and end the conflict. But we are pragmatic about how this might take place. Syria’s future must be for Syrians to decide.

Since the start of the conflict, the UK has provided the moderate opposition to Assad’s regime with practical and political support. This includes training and equipping civil defence teams to carry out search and rescue missions; training Syrian journalists and activists to develop an independent Syrian media and; funding local level peace-building projects within Syria and between communities in neighbouring countries where refugees are based. We have provided over £200million through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund to support Syrians to help save lives, bolster civil society, counter extremism, promote human rights and accountability, and lay the foundations for a more peaceful future. This includes support to the White Helmets who have saved over 100,000 lives in the Syrian conflict.

The UK is working closely with the UN to demand an end to the violence and atrocities committed by the Assad regime, including the bombardment and besiegement of civilian cities and the regime’s restriction of life-saving aid to these areas. The UK also supports independent investigations by the UN Commission of Inquiry into human rights violations and abuses in Syria. We are working in partnership with other donor countries to fund the collection of documentary evidence of human rights abuses for use in possible legal processes in the future.

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