Advertisement

Why hasn't the UK sent Chinooks to help evacuate Iraqis?

Iraqis huddle inside an Iraqi military helicopter after being rescued from Mount Sinjab Photo: ITV News

By ITV News presenter Mark Austin in Irbil, northern Iraq

In John Irvine's remarkable report from the mountains of Sinjar last night we saw the valiant rescue efforts of an Iraqi military helicopter crew risking their lives to pluck people from danger.

They took 50 in a small helicopter designed to take 15.

My question is: If the Iraqis are doing it why aren't the Americans or the British who have transport helicopters designed for the job?

Afghans watch as an RAF Chinook flies near Camp Bastion Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Both countries have the Chinook, the most versatile transport helicopter there is. I have seen them operating in the mountains of Afghanistan, in the flood disaster areas of Mozambique, in the war-torn valleys of Bosnia and in 2005, I think I am right in saying, the RAF even got them into the earthquake-stricken region of Kashmir.

So why not northern Iraq? Is it the fear of commitment? The fear of becoming embroiled in a new conflict in a country with old wounds ?

The message seems to be: 'It's ok to fly over northern Iraq at 20,000 feet with Tornadoes but not land on a mountaintop because it might be construed as boots on the ground.'

Of course there is a threat from IS fighters, but Chinooks flew regularly in Afghanistan with the ever-present threat of the Taliban.

Nine days and counting. If Chinooks are not on the way, they should be. Or someone needs to explain why not.

More on this story