An overwhelming majority of British Parliament members on Friday agreed to participate in U.S.-led airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Following Prime Minister David Cameron's speech urging Great Britain to join the fight against the terrorist group, 524 members of Parliament voted in favor of taking action in Iraq. Forty-three individuals voted against involvement. Lawmakers voted on launching strikes in Iraq only.
"This is going to be a mission that will take not just months, but years," Cameron said during the heated parliamentary debate, which lasted for more than six hours. Members discussed the real danger of mission-creep and how to intervene in a heavily sectarian region of the world.
"We've also got to think of the consequences of inaction," he said later, responding to the question of blowback. "How much stronger will they be before we decide we need to take action as well?"
The U.K. vote came on the heels of the United States launching airstrikes in Syria for a fourth consecutive night Thursday and in the predawn hours of Friday, using a combination of fighter, attack and remotely piloted aircraft to conduct 10 airstrikes against ISIS targets. The British vote in favor of joining the U.S. campaign does not authorize participating in military action in Syria.
In Iraq, five airstrikes south and southwest of Kirkuk targeted a number of ISIS vehicles, destroying three Humvees and one vehicle, disabling two armed vehicles and damaging one mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicle. One airstrike west of Baghdad destroyed an ISIS guard shack, an armed vehicle and a bunker. Another strike near Al Qaim destroyed four armed vehicles, an ISIS command and control node and a checkpoint.
At a news conference on Friday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the U.S.-led coalition is at the beginning, not the end, of its efforts to destroy ISIS.
"No one is under any illusions that airstrikes alone will destroy ISIL. They are one element of our broader comprehensive campaign to destroy ISIL," he said from the Pentagon briefing room.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey echoed Hagel's remarks, acknowledging the persistent and sustained nature of the campaign. The officials also said the United States is intensifying efforts to suspend financing to ISIS.
Earlier Friday, Cameron addressed the House of Commons, ahead of the parliamentary vote on whether the United Kingdom would join the U.S. coalition.
"Is there a threat to the British people? The answer is 'yes,'" he said. "ISIL is a terrorist organization unlike those we have dealt with before. The brutality is staggering."
"This is not a threat on the far side of the world," Cameron added. "This is not the stuff of fantasy. It is happening in front of us, and we need to face up to it."
The U.S. and five allied Arab nations first launched more than 50 strikes against ISIS in Syria early on Tuesday, marking the first time American forces had carried out a military mission inside the war-torn country. ISIS, the terrorist militia that is the primary target of the strikes, has taken control of large areas of Syria and northern Iraq. U.S. military attacks against the group continued this week with airstrikes against ISIS-controlled oil refineries, vehicles, weapon caches and troop positions.
The United States earlier this week also conducted airstrikes against the Khorasan terror group, described by the Obama administration as a network of experienced Islamic extremists who previously fought together in Pakistan and Afghanistan and now flood Syria. The government believes the organization has recruited westerners to serve as operatives and blend into their home countries.
ISIS has murdered one British hostage — aid worker David Haines — and is threatening the lives of two more. The terrorist group also beheaded American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff; a French tourist was similarly killed this week by an Algerian terrorist group aligned with ISIS. The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution condemning the abuses carried out by the terrorist group and extremists everywhere.
In an exclusive op-ed in The Boston Globe on Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry explained the current extent of U.S. involvement in the Middle East and reiterated President Barack Obama's promise that troops won't be involved in ground fighting in Syria or Iraq. He stressed the importance of military action and blocking funding to ISIS.
"The evil that the Islamic State represents is not something that Iraq or the region can take on alone. We face a common threat and it requires a common response," he wrote.
He also called on Americans to continue with their "relentless" fighting against al-Qaida to end the terror of ISIS, which, he said, "now poses a profound and unique threat to the entire world."
Vice President Joe Biden spoke Friday morning at a UN General Assembly summit on peacekeeping.
Last week, Congress voted in favor of training and arming the moderate Syrian opposition in another effort to weaken ISIS.