In an interview with the Daily Mail, British defence secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Quite simply, my view is a dead terrorist can’t cause any harm to Britain.”
“I do not believe that any terrorist, whether they come from this country or any other, should ever be allowed back into this country,” he said. “We should do everything we can do to destroy and eliminate that threat.”
Around 800 British citizens have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for IS, and 130 of them have died in conflict.
“We have got to make sure that as [they] splinter and as they disperse across Iraq and Syria and other areas, we continue to hunt them down,” he added. “Make sure there is no safe space for them, that they can’t go to other countries preaching their hate, preaching their cult of death.”
Williamson echoes his predecessor, Michael Fallon, who resigned last month amid sexual misconduct allegations.
Fallon previously said that British nationals who have gone to Iraq or Syria to fight for ISIS have made themselves “a legitimate target” and “run the risk every hour of every day of being on the wrong end of an RAF or a United States missile.”
Max Hill QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, discussed how Britain could be “losing a generation” of men and women by automatically using the courts to punish them. In October, the official anti-terror watchdog said that teenagers who joined IS “out of a sense of naivety” should be reintegrated into British society so we that we can avoid “losing a generation.”
However, Williamson argued that jihadist groups in Libya, Iraq and Syria were breeding grounds for plotting attacks in the UK. “Our job in terms of eliminating will not stop this year, will not stop next year – it is something we have got to continue to pursue,” he said.
In recent years, drone strikes have seen a dramatic increase. Ministry of Defence figures show there was only one Reaper strike in 2015, 24 strikes in 2016, and 31 strikes in 2017. In Iraq there have been 352 Reaper strikes in 2014, 663 strikes by Tornados, and 402 strikes by Typhoons Coalition airstrikes that had killed about 45,000 ISIS fighters up until August 2016.
It is unclear how many civilians have been killed in these strikes.
The ongoing slave auctions in Libya highlight the impact that violent international intervention can have on a region.
As former Prime Minister Tony Blair partially acknowledged himself in a CNN interview back in 2015, the US and British invasion of Iraq created a backdrop for the emergence of ISIS. Furthermore, prior to the NATO intervention of Libya in 2011, ISIS had no presence there.
Perhaps the wholesale bombing of humans as well as potentially civilian-populated regions is not the answer to defeating ISIS, if bombing in the first place created an environment that engendered their rise. If we are to break the cycle of violence, hunting down and killing people we deem a threat whilst ruling any civilian deaths as “collateral damage” might end up coming back to haunt us.