The United States and its coalition partners have agreed to intensify their campaign to defeat the Islamic State terrorist group. Following talks Wednesday in Paris, the coalition called for a meeting of more than two dozen anti-IS countries next month in Brussels.
The agreement for more aggressive action against Islamic State terrorists was reached in Paris by defense ministers from France, Australia, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Britain and the United States.
The ministers discussed plans to help Iraq and Syria retake two major cities, Mosul and Raqqa, but that was just part of a larger coalition strategy that U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter outlined to counter the terrorist group’s spread and influence worldwide.
“An important part of our discussion today was to talk about all the capabilities that will be required to succeed here, not just military, but nonmilitary — nonmilitary being economic, in terms of reconstruction; information, in terms of countering extremism. ... When you array all these capabilities, you can see how different parties can make different contributions.”
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (R) and U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter (L) speak at a news conference at the French Defense Ministry in Paris, Jan. 20, 2016.
Arab, Asian partners sought
Pushing more countries to increase their involvement in the fight will be the focus of the Brussels meeting in three weeks that Carter says will bring together 26 countries, including Iraq. Washington especially wants greater participation from Arab and Asian nations.
“Every nation must come prepared to discuss further contributions to the fight. And I will not hesitate to engage and challenge current and prospective members of the coalition as we go forward,” he said.
Speaking alongside Carter, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said ongoing airstrikes have put the Islamic State group in a defensive position, forcing it to retreat from positions it once held.
The coalition’s efforts are bearing fruit, Le Drian said, adding that for the campaign to be sustainable, the international community needs to increase support for local groups fighting IS so they can retake territory and keep it in the long run.
Critics of U.S. policy toward Islamic State, including many U.S. lawmakers, complain that the Obama administration has been weak and unfocused in the fight against the terrorists.
Some in Congress have called for putting U.S. troops back on the ground in Iraq, something President Barack Obama has said will not happen.