STATE DEPARTMENT —
Iraqi command and control over all of the forces battling Islamic State militants in the country will be one of the key focal points of a counter-Islamic State coalition ministerial meeting in Paris Tuesday.
A senior State Department official said Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and other officials attending the meeting will also focus on Iraqi army recruitment, mobilizing tribes, stabilizing communities cleared of Islamic State militants and recalling police in hard-hit Anbar province.
The official commented Monday in a background briefing.
In a statement, the French foreign ministry said the group would also “convey a strong message” about the need to find lasting political solutions to the Iraqi crisis.
Secretary Kerry to participate remotely
State Department officials said Secretary of State Kerry would participate in the session “remotely."
Kerry had planned to attend in person but was forced to cut short his European trip, that also included a stop in Spain, after fracturing his femur while bike riding in France Sunday.
The State Department said he was in “good spirits” and eager to take part in Tuesday’s small group ministerial meeting as he receives medical treatment in Boston.
Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who traveled to Paris Monday, will now lead the U.S. delegation.
The meeting comes at a critical time. Last month, Islamic State fighters took over Ramadi, the provincial capital of Iraq’s Anbar province. They used a series of vehicle-borne explosive devices to push Iraqi security forces into retreat.
“Given what happened in Ramadi, this is not business as usual,” said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf in reference to Tuesday’s meeting.
“We are focused on action here and what happens next,” Harf added.
Review of goals, Syria’s situation
The Counter-Islamic State Coalition Small Group Ministerial last met in London in January. Kerry and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond hosted the session.
On Tuesday, officials will also review progress on some of the priorities set in the previous meeting, including finding ways to cut the Islamic State group’s financing and cut the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria.
Also, the senior State Department official said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius would be hosting a meeting that focused specifically on the Islamic State group’s presence in Syria.
“We have to get at this problem. We can not allow them sanctuary,” the official said.
Extremists' widening influence
In recent weeks, militant groups carrying out attacks in countries including Libya and Nigeria have claimed allegiance to the Islamic State group.
“We are not going to be distracted every time a terrorist organization raises a black flag and says they are ISIL,” the senior State Department official said.
The official added that while the coalition had to focus on the “heart” of the Islamic State network in Iraq and Syria, it could not ignore the fact that the militant group has been trying to expand and cooperate with other terrorist groups.
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